Treatment

Bronchiolitis typically lasts for two to three weeks. The majority of children with bronchiolitis can be cared for at home with supportive care. It's important to be alert for changes in breathing difficulty, such as struggling for each breath, being unable to speak or cry because of difficulty breathing, or making grunting noises with each breath.

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.

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.

Oral corticosteroid medications and pounding on the chest to loosen mucus (chest physiotherapy) have not been shown to be effective treatments for bronchiolitis and are not recommended.

Hospital care

A tiny percentage of children need hospital care to manage their condition. At the hospital, your child may 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.

April 26, 2016
References
  1. AskMayoExpert. Bronchiolitis. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
  2. Piedra PA, et al. Bronchiolitis in infants and children: Clinical features and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 18, 2016.
  3. Piedra PA, et al. Bronchiolitis in infants and children: Treatment; outcome; and prevention. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 18, 2016.
  4. Fitzgerald DA. Viral bronchiolitis for the clinician. Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health. 2011;47:160.
  5. Ralston SL, et al. Clinical practice guideline: The diagnosis, management, and prevention of bronchiolitis. Pediatrics. 2014;134:e1474.
  6. Schroeder AR, et al. Recent evidence on the management of bronchiolitis. Current Opinion in Pediatrics. 2014;26:328.
  7. Bennett JE, et al. Bronchiolitis. In: Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2015. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Feb. 18, 2016.
  8. Synagis (prescribing information). Gaithersburg, Md.: MedImmune; 2014. https://www.synagis.com/. Accessed Feb. 19, 2016.
  9. Get smart about antibiotics: Symptom relief. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/getsmart/community/for-patients/symptom-relief.html. Accessed Feb. 19, 2016.
  10. Schmitt BD, ed. Pediatric Telephone Protocols. 15th ed. Elk Grove Village, Ill.: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2013:106.
  11. An important FDA reminder for parents: Do not give infants cough and cold products designed for older children. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/SpecialFeatures/ucm263948.htm. Accessed March 8, 2016.
  12. Kliegman RM, et al. Wheezing, bronchiolitis, and bronchitis. In: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2016. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 10, 2016.
  13. Protect against RSV. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/features/rsv/. Accessed March 21, 2016.