Management of Bronchiolitis

What is Bronchiolitis?

Bronchiolitis is an infectious disease when the tiniest airways in your baby/child’s lungs become swollen. This can make it more difficult for your baby/child to breathe. Usually, bronchiolitis is caused by a virus. It is common in winter months and usually only causes mild cold like symptoms. Most babies/children get better on their own without the need for treatment.

What are the symptoms?

  • Your baby/child may have a runny nose and sometimes a temperature and a cough.
  • After a few days your baby/child’s cough may become worse.
  • Your baby/child’s breathing may be faster than normal and it may become noisy (wheezing).
  • He or she may need to make more effort to breathe.
  • Sometimes, in the very young babies, Bronchiolitis may cause them to have brief pauses in their breathing.
  • As breathing becomes more difficult, your baby may not be able to take the usual amount of milk by breast or bottle.
  • You may notice fewer wet nappies than usual.
  • Your baby/child may vomit after feeding and become irritable.

How can I help my baby?

  • If your baby/child is not feeding as normal offer feeds little and often to reduce risk of dehydration.
  • If your baby/child has a fever, you can give him or her paracetamol in the recommended doses. If your child is older than 6 months old you may also give ibuprofen.
  • If your baby/child is already taking medicines or inhalers, you should carry on using these. If you find it difficult to get your baby/child to take them, ask your doctor for advice.
  • Bronchiolitis is caused by a virus so antibiotics won’t help.
  • Make sure your baby/child is not exposed to tobacco smoke. Passive smoking can seriously damage your baby/child’s health. It makes breathing problems like bronchiolitis worse. Remember smoke remains on your clothes even if you smoke outside.
  • Ensure that the home is well ventilated including your child’s bedroom.
  • Avoiding warm, dry atmospheres, such as places with air conditioning and car heating systems – placing plants, bowls of water or a humidifier in a room may help to keep the air humid.
  • You can also get saline (salt water) drops from your pharmacist to put inside the nostrils, which help to keep the nose clear for breathing and feeding.

How long does bronchiolitis last?

  • Most babies/children with bronchiolitis get better within about two weeks. They may still have a cough for a few more weeks after this.
  • Your baby/child can go back to nursery or day care as soon as he or she is well enough (that is feeding normally and with no difficulty in breathing).
  • There is usually no need to see your doctor if your baby/child is recovering well. If you are worried about your baby/child’s progress, discuss this with your Doctor, Health Visitor or Practice Nurse