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Offered by: Dawn M. Dycus, M.D. – Brighton Pediatrics, P.C.

During the winter and early spring, many infants and toddlers will develop an illness known as bronchiolitis. Bronchiolitis is a respiratory infection that develops in the smaller airways of the lung. This is different than bronchitis, which is an infection of the larger more central airways.

Bronchiolitis causes inflammation, swelling, and mucus production in the small airways. This can reduce or block airflow, resulting in wheezing (a whistling sound), widening of the nostrils, grunting, or tugging inward of the chest wall muscles with breathing. Children with bronchiolitis may breathe heavier than usual or make a snoring sound with breathing, as if they have mucus or phlegm in their chest. Bronchiolitis often starts with signs of a cold (runny nose or congestion, cough, fever) and then symptoms worsen over the next 4-5 days. Breathing difficulties typically develop between days 3-5 of illness. After day 5, symptoms will start to gradually improve, resolving completely after 10-14 days.

Bronchiolitis is caused by multiple different viruses, including RSV. Because this type of illness is caused by a virus, antibiotics will not work to resolve the illness any faster. Treatment is supportive, including rest, increased fluid intake, humidifier use, steam showers, nasal saline and suctioning the nose, and giving Tylenol (or ibuprofen in infants over 6 months old) as needed for fever or discomfort.

Children with bronchiolitis should be seen urgently if they develop wheezing, breathing difficulties, signs of dehydration, or fever of 104 F or higher. In some cases, admission to the hospital is needed for increased support through this illness. If you have concerns that your child has bronchiolitis, please contact your doctor’s office for advice.

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