Bronchiolitis is a common respiratory illness in infants.  One of its symptoms is rapid, noisy, labored breathing which can be quite scary for a parent.  Bronchiolitis is an infection that causes the small breathing tubes (bronchioles) in the lungs to swell.  This blocks airflow through the lungs, making it difficult to breathe.

Bronchiolitis is caused by one of several respiratory viruses.  Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most common cause of this illness, which occurs most frequently from October to March.

Infants are most likely to get bronchiolitis, in part because their airways are so small.  Most children and adults that get RSV typically just have cold-like symptoms.  RSV is spread by contact with an infected person's mucus or saliva.

Bronchiolitis often starts with cold symptoms such as a runny nose, cough and fever.  After a day or two, an infant begins to breathe faster and may develop signs that he/she is having difficulty breathing:
  • Squeezing the muscles under the ribcage to get more air into the lungs
  • High-pitched whistling sound (wheezing) when breathing out
  • Trouble drinking due to trouble sucking and swallowing at the same time
  • Flaring of the nostrils
  • Grunting noise when breathing
If your child shows any of these signs of trouble breathing, call your pediatrician.  

There is no specific treatment for viruses causing bronchiolitis.  Antibiotics are not helpful in any viral infections.  At an office visit, pediatricians can evaluate whether your child is getting adequate oxygen or if a medicine may be needed to help expand the bronchioles to ease the child's breathing.

The major method of preventing bronchiolitis is careful, frequent hand washing and preventing contact with sick individuals as much as possible.
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Silver Spring Pediatrics
Drs. DeConcini, Schooler, Zang, Wang, Yee & Marcus