Feb 15, 2001 Table of Contents

Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education Web site.

Patient Information Collections

Information from Your Family Doctor

Bronchiolitis and Your Child

Am Fam Physician. 2001 Feb 15;63(4):767.

What is bronchiolitis?

Bronchiolitis is a lung infection caused by a virus. Children younger than two years get this illness in the winter and the early spring. Most children are sick about a week and then get well.

What are the symptoms of bronchiolitis?

Your child will probably have a runny nose and a low fever for two to three days. Then your child may begin to cough, breathe fast and wheeze for another two or three days.

What can I do for my child?

  • Have your child drink plenty of liquids (don't worry about solid foods).

  • Use a cool-mist vaporizer in the bedroom while the child is sleeping.

  • Run hot water in the shower or bathtub to steam up the bathroom and sit in there with your child if he or she is coughing hard and having trouble breathing.

  • Give your child acetaminophen (some brand names: Children's or Infants' Tylenol), if he or she has a fever.

When should I call the doctor?

You should call your doctor in the following situations:

  • Your child is vomiting and can't keep liquids down.

  • Your child is breathing very fast, more than 40 breaths in one minute.

  • You can see your child's skin pull in between the ribs with each breath or your child has to sit up to be able to breathe.

  • Your child has had heart disease or was born prematurely. In this case, call the doctor at the first signs of this illness.

What will my doctor do for my child?

Your doctor will check your child for signs of dehydration (not enough liquids in the body). Your doctor will also check to see if your child is getting enough oxygen and may want to check your child for pneumonia. Sometimes, doctors give children a liquid medicine to help with the cough. Your doctor may want to see your child again in 24 hours.

If your child is really working hard to breathe, your doctor may suggest putting him or her in the hospital. Your child can get extra oxygen while in the hospital. Your child can also get extra liquids through the veins (intravenous fluids), which will help prevent dehydration.

Will my other children catch bronchiolitis?

Bronchiolitis is spread just like a cold, through close contact with saliva or mucus, but older children usually don't catch this illness.

You can help prevent spreading this disease by keeping your sick child home until the cough is almost gone. Make sure to wash your hands after you take care of your sick child and before you take care of another child.


This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.

Copyright © 2001 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact afpserv@aafp.org for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions


Article Tools

  • Print page
  • Share this page
  • AFP CME Quiz

Information From Industry

Navigate this Article