What is Bronchiolitis Among Children and How to Prevent It?

Sick child check-up
  • Bronchiolitis is a common respiratory infection in children under two, caused by viruses such as RSV.
  • Symptoms of bronchiolitis can range from mild to severe, including wheezing, rapid breathing, difficulty breathing, and loss of appetite.
  • Factors that can lead to bronchiolitis include a weak immune system, premature birth, and exposure to smoke/pollutants.
  • Diagnosis involves physical exams or additional tests such as chest X-rays and blood tests.
  • Prevention methods include frequent handwashing, avoiding contact with sick people, avoiding secondhand smoke, and breastfeeding.

As a parent, one of the hardest things to watch is your child struggling to breathe. Unfortunately, bronchiolitis is a common respiratory infection that affects children under the age of two, and it can be quite scary if not treated promptly. Here’s bronchiolitis, its causes and symptoms, how it is diagnosed and treated, and most importantly, how to prevent it.

What is Bronchiolitis?

Bronchiolitis is a common viral respiratory infection that affects the smallest air passages in the lungs, called the bronchioles. The leading cause of bronchiolitis is the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). RSV is a highly contagious virus that quickly spreads through coughing and sneezing. Other viruses, such as the flu, can also cause bronchiolitis. Bronchiolitis is most common in winter, as viruses spread more easily in cold weather.


The symptoms of bronchiolitis can vary from mild to severe. In mild cases, young children may simply have a runny nose and low fever. However, in extreme cases, children may experience wheezing, rapid breathing, and difficulty breathing. They may also have trouble sleeping, lose their appetite, and become dehydrated. If you notice any of these symptoms, seeking medical attention right away is important.

Common Reasons For the Disease

There are various reasons why a child may develop bronchiolitis. Here are some of them:

Child in hospital and respirator

Weak Immune System

One of the most common reasons for bronchiolitis is a weak immune system. A child’s developing immune system may be unable to fight off the viruses that cause bronchiolitis.

Premature Birth

Children born prematurely are at a higher risk of developing bronchiolitis, as their lungs are not fully developed and are more susceptible to infection.

Exposure to Smoke and Pollutants

Children exposed to second-hand smoke, pollutants, or other irritants can be more prone to bronchiolitis.


To diagnose bronchiolitis, some testing is required. An experienced family doctor will perform a physical exam and may also test for RSV. In some cases, a chest X-ray or blood test may be needed to determine the severity of the infection. Additionally, the doctor may order breathing treatments and other medications to help reduce symptoms.


There are various treatments for bronchiolitis. Here are some of them:

Inpatient care for child

Supportive Care

The first line of treatment for bronchiolitis is supportive care. This includes making sure the child is well-hydrated and comfortable. In severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary to provide oxygen or IV fluids. Over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil), can also be given to help reduce fever or pain.

However, cough and cold medications should not be given to young children as they can have serious side effects. Saline drops and bulb suctioning can help clear the child’s nasal passages and make it easier for them to breathe.


Bronchodilators are medications that relax the muscles in the airways, allowing more air to flow through. They are commonly used to treat asthma and sometimes used in bronchiolitis treatment. However, limited evidence supports their use in bronchiolitis, and they may not be effective for all children. If your child’s symptoms are severe or not improving with supportive care, your doctor may recommend a trial of bronchodilators.


Steroids are anti-inflammatory medications that can reduce swelling and inflammation in the airways. They are sometimes used to treat severe bronchiolitis but are not routinely recommended for all cases. The evidence supporting their use in bronchiolitis is limited, and they can have potential side effects. Steroids should only be used under the guidance of your child’s doctor.


A virus causes bronchiolitis, and antibiotics are not effective against viral infections. However, antibiotics may be prescribed if your child develops a bacterial infection on top of bronchiolitis, such as an ear infection or pneumonia. It is essential only to use antibiotics when necessary to avoid contributing to antibiotic resistance.


While there is no sure way to prevent bronchiolitis, there are steps you can take to reduce your child’s risk of getting sick. Washing hands frequently, avoiding close contact with sick individuals, and keeping your child away from secondhand smoke can all help. Additionally, breastfeeding can provide some protection against respiratory illnesses.

Bronchiolitis is a common respiratory infection that affects young children. It is important to be aware of its symptoms and seek medical attention immediately if you suspect your child may have bronchiolitis. Additionally, you can take steps to reduce the risk of bronchiolitis in your child. With proper care and prevention, your child can stay healthy and safe.

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