Inflammation of the bronchioles, the smallest branches
of the respiratory tree. These carry air from the large
bronchial tubes to microscopic air sacs in the lungs. The
air sacs transfer oxygen to the bloodstream. It mainly
affects infants and young children. Bronchiolitis may be
confused with inhaled objects lodged in the child's lung.
Bronchiolitis signs and symptoms
Sudden breathing difficulty, usually preceded by a mild
common cold and cough, and characterized by the following:
Rapid, shallow breathing (60 to 80 times a minute).
Retractions (see-saw movements) of the chest and abdomen.
Blue skin or nails (severe cases).
Viral infection, usually respiratory syncytial virus
Some young children develop this disorder after every
Bronchiolitis is contagious and often becomes epidemic.
Risk increases with
Illness that has lowered resistance, especially respiratory
Family history of allergies.
Day care environment.
Contact with an infected person.
Use a cool-mist humidifier in the child's room. Use it
every night during and after a respiratory infection for a
child who is subject to bronchiolitis.
Observe and avoid any activities that seem to trigger
attacks in the child, such as active play in cool night air.
Decrease the child's exposure to groups of people,
especially other children, to avoid colds.
Usually curable in 7 days with treatment. Some studies
indicate that infants who have 2 or more episodes of
bronchiolitis before age 2 are more likely to develop
allergies and asthma.
Rarely, permanent lung damage leading to chronic
bronchitis, collapse of a small portion of the lung,
bronchiectasis, repeated pneumonia, and rarely,
obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Keep the humidity in the child's room as high as possible,
preferably with an ultrasonic cool-mist humidifier.
Clean humidifier daily. If you don't have a humidifier,
run cold or hot water in the shower with windows and
doors closed to produce a high-humidity room. Hold
the child in this room for 20 minutes several times a
day, especially at bedtime. If the child awakens at night
with wheezing or shortness of breath, repeat the
Breathing cool outside air may help.
Hospitalization for intensive care and oxygen (severe