Diagnosis Bronchiolitis: 10 Facts Parents and Caregivers Need to Know

Updated on January 9, 2017
M G Del Baglivo profile image

The author holds a degree in Respiratory Therapy and has over twenty years of experience as a Registered Therapist.


What Is It?

Pediatric bronchiolitis is an acute inflammation of the smallest airways of the lung. This condition is characterized by a thickening of the walls of the tubes that connect directly to the alveoli, the functional units of the lungs. Mucous production also partially blocks bronchioles and compromises the oxygenation and carbon dioxide balance in the blood.

The Human Lung

(1) arteries in red (2) veins in blue (3) bronchioles are the small banded branches
(1) arteries in red (2) veins in blue (3) bronchioles are the small banded branches | Source

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)


Incidence, Causes and Treatment

  1. Bronchiolitis is a common disease of infants and young children from 2 to 24 months of age. Approximately 20 percent of infants in the United States develop bronchiolitis each year, and it is most common in children between 3 and 6 months old. Males are more frequently affected than females. Premature or bottle-fed infants tend to have mild cases. Children exposed to cigarette smoke are more at risk for severe bronchiolitis.

  2. The Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is the main cause of bronchiolitis (85%) and pneumonia (40%) in children. [It is also of major significance in adult pneumonia with those over 65 years of age at particular risk.]

  3. According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), almost all children will have had an RSV infection by their second birthday. The CDC reports that when children are first exposed to RSV 25% to 40 % develop symptoms of bronchiolitis or pneumonia. It is highly contagious among infants.

  4. For the vast majority RSV produces no more than a common cold. Symptoms include rhinitis (nasal congestion and runny nose), cough and fever. The CDC reports that healthy children usually experience these cold-like symptoms 4-6 days after exposure and recover on their own within 10 to 14 days.

  5. Home treatment of this mild upper respiratory infection includes the removal of any sticky nasal fluids with a bulb syringe using saline drops, a cool-mist vaporizer to keep air in the room humidified, fluids throughout the day and non-aspirin fever reducers such as acetaminophen.

  6. If the cold symptoms do not resolve, or if they worsen, medical assessment for possible bronchiolitis (and/or pneumonia) is necessary. Wheezing or difficulty breathing are serious signs of advancing infection.

  7. A child may require hospitalization for a severe episode of bronchiolitis. One to two percent of infants with the condition are admitted to pediatric departments. Bronchiolitis due to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the leading cause of hospitalization in infants younger than one year of age in the US.

  8. Antiviral drugs may be administered in the hospital setting. Supportive care may include supplemental humidified oxygen, intravenous fluid replacement, fever control and, for infants with wheezing, nebulized bronchodilators. The length of stay averages 2-3 days.

  9. The prognosis is good for otherwise healthy children and the condition resolves without complications in 2 to 4 days. However, wheezing may continue for a week or longer. Full recovery can take a month.

  10. Other viruses responsible for bronchiolitis include adenoviruses and rhinoviruses (the most frequent causes of the common cold) and parainfluenza viruses. These microbes are also highly contagious and children and adults with colds should be isolated from infants as much as is reasonably possible. All children and adults who will have contact with infants should practice good hand-washing.


American Family Physician, “Treating Acute Bronchiolitis Associated with RSV,” accessed October 16, 2015, http://www.aafp.org/afp/2004/0115/p325.html.

CDC, “Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV), Infection and Incidence,” accessed October 16, 2015, http://www.cdc.gov/rsv/about/infection.html.

CDC, “Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV), Trends and Surveillance,” accessed October 16, 2015, http://www.cdc.gov/rsv/research/us-surveillance.html.

Medscape, “Bronchiolitis Treatment & Management,” accessed October 16, 2015, http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/961963-treatment#d8.

UptoDate, “Patient information: Bronchiolitis (and RSV) in infants and children (Beyond the Basics),” accessed October 16, 2015, http://www.uptodate.com/contents/bronchiolitis-and-rsv-in-infants-and-children-beyond-the-basics.

WebMD, “RSV in Babies,” accessed Oct 16, 2015, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/rsv-in-babies?page=2.

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2015 M G Del Baglivo


Submit a Comment

No comments yet.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, healthproadvice.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)