Bronchiolitis (say: "bronk-ee-oh-lie-tus") is a lung infection that can be caused by several kinds of viruses. Young children, particularly those between 3 months and 6 months old, get this illness in the winter and the early spring. Most children are sick for about a week to 10 days and then get well.
At first, the symptoms of bronchiolitis may resemble the symptoms of a common cold. Your child will probably have a runny nose and a slight fever for 2 to 3 days. Then your child may begin to cough, breathe fast and wheeze (make a high-pitched whistling sound when breathing) for another 2 or 3 days.
Call your doctor if:
If your child's skin develops a bluish color, especially around the lips or in the fingertips, it may be a sign that he or she is not getting enough oxygen. Seek medical care or go to the emergency room right away.
There are some things you can do when your child has bronchiolitis:
Your doctor will check your child for signs of dehydration (not enough liquids in his or her body). Your doctor will also check to see if your child is getting enough oxygen and may want to check your child for pneumonia. Sometimes, doctors give children a liquid medicine to help with the cough. Your doctor may want to see your child again in 24 hours.
If your child is really working hard to breathe, your doctor may suggest putting him or her in the hospital. Your child can get extra oxygen while in the hospital. Your child can also get extra liquids through the veins (intravenous fluids), which will help prevent dehydration.
Bronchiolitis is spread just like a cold, through close contact with saliva or mucus, but older children usually don't get as sick as younger children do.
You can help prevent spreading this disease by keeping your sick child home until the cough is almost gone. Make sure to wash your hands after you take care of your sick child to avoid spreading the virus to others.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff