Also known as: viral bronchiolitis, RSV bronchiolitis.

What is bronchiolitis?

Bronchiolitis is a common lung infection/inflammation affecting the small tubes (air passages-lower airways-bronchioles) to the lungs which usually affects children younger than 2 years of age, and which sometimes results in their hospitalization. The infection/inflammation causes swelling and secretions (mucus) that partially or completely block the bronchioles.

What causes bronchiolitis? 

Risk factors include: being born preterm, never being breast fed, exposed to tobacco smoke, having an underlying heart or lung condition, a depressed immune system, living in a crowded environment, or being exposed to multiple young children. Bronchiolitis is almost always caused by a viral infection, typically the Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which infects infants < 3 years of age between November and April (in the USA). Other viral causes include influenza, parainfluenza or adenovirus.

What are the symptoms of bronchiolitis?

 Following 1-3 days of common cold symptoms (stuffy nose, fever, decreased appetite, mild cough), breathing becomes more rapid (60-80 times per minute), the cough becomes persistent, and wheezing develops with trouble breathing and feeding. In small infants (premature ones or those < 2 months if age) periods of a pause in breathing (apnea) may be the first sign of bronchiolitis. With increasing severity, rib retractions (sucking in of the skin around the ribs or throat), flaring of the nostrils and grunting may occur and as the infant tires with the effort required to get oxygen into the lungs, and blue-tinged lips, fingernails and/or skin (cyanosis) from lack of oxygen indicates the seriousness of the condition and hospitalization will be required.

What are bronchiolitis care options? 

There is no cure for bronchiolitis. Mild bronchiolitis may only require symptomatic treatment (fever control, nose drops or spray, fluids, etc.) at home. Most children will get better in 1-2 weeks.
If uncertain as to the severity, parents should seek immediate Emergency Department evaluation as this can be a life-threatening illness. Approximately 3% of children with bronchiolitis will require monitoring and treatment in hospital. Oxygen therapy, intravenous (IV) fluids, and a system to help the infant breathe (a breathing tube - endotracheal tube - and a machine to help breathing - a ventilator) may be required to support the child while the bronchioles heal.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 3/23/2018 2:17:18 PM

Upcoming Events

Ventilation Assisted Children's Center (VACC) Camp

VACC Camp is a week-long sleep-away camp for children requiring ventilator assistance (tracheostomy ventilator, C-PAP, BiPAP, or oxygen to support breathing) and their families.  Learn more.

Register Online

Urgent Care Centers

Doral Urgent Care Center
3601 NW 107th Avenue
Doral, FL 33178
Wait Time: Closed

Palm Beach Gardens Urgent Care Center
11310 Legacy Avenue
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410
Wait Time: Closed

Miramar Urgent Care Center
12246 Miramar Parkway
Miramar, FL 33025
Wait Time: Closed

Miami Lakes Urgent Care Center
15025 NW 77 Avenue
Miami Lakes, FL 33014
Wait Time: Closed

Nirvair Chowdhury Midtown Urgent Care Center
3915 Biscayne Boulevard
Miami, FL 33137
Wait Time: Closed

West Kendall Urgent Care Center
13400 SW 120th Street
Miami, FL 33186
Wait Time: Closed

Palmetto Bay Urgent Care Center
17615 SW 97 Avenue
Palmetto Bay, FL 33157
Wait Time: Closed

West Bird Urgent Care Center
11449 SW 40 Street
Miami, FL 33165
Wait Time: Closed

Main Campus Urgent Care Center
3100 SW 62 Avenue
Miami, FL 33155
Wait Time: Closed

Golisano | Nicklaus Children's Health Center
3361 Pine Ridge Road
Naples, FL 34109
Wait Time: Closed

Hialeah Urgent Care Center
990 W 49th Street
Hialeah, FL 33012
Wait Time: Closed

Pinecrest Urgent Care Center
11521 South Dixie Highway
Pinecrest, FL 33156
Wait Time: Closed

Homestead Urgent Care Center
2072 NE 8th Street
Homestead, FL 33033
Wait Time: Closed