Bronchiolitis is a common lung infection that mostly affects young children and babies. It causes congestion in the small airways (bronchioles) of the lung. It is a contagious condition mostly caused by a virus and usually occurs around the winter months. An individual may contract the virus through droplets in the air from sick coughs, sneezes or talks. Many cases of Bronchiolitis are mild and treated within two weeks; however more severe cases require medical attention and treatment at a hospital.



Bronchiolitis starts out with symptoms similar to those of a common cold:

  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Coughing
  • Slight high temperature


Severe symptoms that require medical attention may include:

  • Vomiting
  • Fast breathing
  • Lack of energy
  • Appearance of blue or purple coloration of the skin
  • Refusal to drink fluids
  • Wheezing sounds
  • Ribs seem to suck inward when inhaling



Bronchiolitis is usually caused by a virus known as the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The virus affects the main breathing tubes known as the bronchi and causes them to swell and become inflamed. This in turn, makes it more difficult to breath.


Risk Factors

Factors associated with an increased risk of contracting bronchiolitis include:

  • Being younger than 6 months old
  • Premature birth
  • Not being breast-feed
  • Low immune system
  • Heart or lung condition
  • Contact with multiple children
  • Exposure to tobacco smoke



Complications of severe bronchiolitis may include:

  • Cyanosis: Appearance of blue or purple coloration of the skin
  • Apnea: Long pauses in breathing
  • Loss of fluids
  • Respiratory failure



Treatment of Bronchiolitis is most cases can be done at home with supportive care. Many of these treatments include:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration
  • Taking saline nose drops to relieve nasal congestion
  • Taking medications to open airways and enhance breathing (bronchodilators)

Other treatments involve hospital care or insertion of a tube in the windpipe to help the child’s breathing.



A few recommendations for preventing bronchiolitis may include:

  • Getting a flu shot
  • Washing hands
  • Breast-feeding
  • Limiting child’s contact to people with colds or flu
  • Wiping toys and keeping bathrooms and kitchen countertops at home clean