brand logo

NOTE: On July 17, 2023, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved nirsevimab for the prevention of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) lower respiratory tract disease in neonates and infants born during or entering their first RSV season and in children up to 24 months of age who remain vulnerable to severe RSV disease through their second RSV season. This article has been revised to reflect the FDA approval. For more information, see the FDA news release.

Am Fam Physician. 2023;108(1):52-57

Patient information: See related handout on respiratory syncytial virus infection.

This clinical content conforms to AAFP criteria for CME.

Author disclosure: No relevant financial relationships.

Bronchiolitis is the most common lower respiratory tract infection in young children. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most common viral cause of bronchiolitis. RSV is spread through respiratory droplets, and the number of cases varies with season. For most patients, standard precautions (e.g., hand hygiene, surface cleaning, avoiding contact with sick individuals) are recommended. However, prophylaxis with palivizumab may be considered for infants at high risk. Initial symptoms occur after an incubation period of four to six days and include rhinorrhea, congestion, sneezing, and fever. Signs of lower respiratory tract involvement may follow and include cough, tachypnea, retractions, difficulty feeding, and accessory muscle use. Diagnosis is typically clinical; routine use of radiography or viral testing is not recommended. Treatment of RSV bronchiolitis is mainly supportive. Oxygen saturation should be maintained above 90%. Hydration and nutrition should be maintained by nasogastric or intravenous routes, if needed. Therapies such as bronchodilators, epinephrine, nebulized hypertonic saline, corticosteroids, antibiotics, and chest physiotherapy are not recommended. Although most episodes of RSV bronchiolitis are self-limited, some children have an increased risk of asthma later in life.

Bronchiolitis is the most common lower respiratory tract infection in children younger than five years. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most common viral cause of bronchiolitis worldwide. This article summarizes the best available evidence for the management of RSV bronchiolitis.

Already a member/subscriber?  Log In


From $165
  • Immediate, unlimited access to all AFP content
  • More than 130 CME credits/year
  • AAFP app access
  • Print delivery available

Issue Access

  • Immediate, unlimited access to this issue's content
  • CME credits
  • AAFP app access
  • Print delivery available

Article Only

  • Immediate, unlimited access to just this article
  • CME credits
  • AAFP app access
  • Print delivery available
Purchase Access:  Learn More

Continue Reading

More in AFP

More in PubMed

Copyright © 2023 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.  See permissions for copyright questions and/or permission requests.