The vast majority of cases of bronchiolitis can be cared for at home with supportive care. Make sure your child is getting adequate liquids. Consider saline nose drops or suctioning with a bulb to relieve nasal congestion. Be alert for changes in breathing difficulty. Expect the condition to last for a week to a month.
Drugs that open the airways (bronchodilators) haven't been found to be routinely helpful. But your doctor may elect to try a nebulized albuterol treatment to see if it helps.
Because viruses cause bronchiolitis, antibiotics — which are used to treat infections caused by bacteria — aren't effective against it. If your child has an associated bacterial infection, such as pneumonia, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic for that.
Use of corticosteroid medications, the antiviral drug ribavirin and pounding on the chest to loosen mucus (chest physiotherapy) have not been shown to be effective treatments for bronchiolitis and are not recommended.
A tiny percentage of children need hospital care to manage their condition. At the hospital, your child will likely receive humidified oxygen to maintain sufficient oxygen in the blood, and perhaps fluids through a vein (intravenously) to prevent dehydration. In severe cases, a tube may be inserted into the windpipe (trachea) to help the child's breathing.
May 07, 2013
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- American Academy of Pediatrics. Diagnosis and Management of Bronchiolitis. Pediatrics. 2006;118:1774.
- Pianosi PT. (Expert opinion.) Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 5, 2013.