Bronchiolitis and Respiratory Infections in Children

All babies and toddlers get colds and other viruses that can lead to trouble breathing. 

What is bronchiolitis?

Kids younger than 2 years can have trouble with respiratory infections because the virus sometimes moves from the nose and throat into the lungs.  When the virus infects the breathing tubes within the lungs, it is called “bronchiolitis.”

Bronchiolitis is not the same as bronchitis, which affects the larger tubes that lead into your lungs. Bronchiolitis is more serious because it is an infection of smaller tubes deeper in the lungs.

What are the symptoms of bronchiolitis in babies?

Your child will have lot of mucus in the nose and lungs. Suctioning the nose will help, which is demonstrated in this video.

Because the infection causes the breathing tubes to swell, making it harder for air to pass through, your child may develop a harsh cough. Your child might also get a fever – and that’s a good thing! Fever is one of the ways the body fights infection.

How long does bronchiolitis last?

Bronchiolitis usually lasts several weeks. Typically symptoms gets worse for the first 3 to 5 days as the infection moves from the nose into the lungs. It may be a gradual 2 weeks or longer until the infection is gone and symptoms may go up and down.

When should you call the doctor for your child’s respiratory infection?

Most babies will get better on their own and won’t need to see the doctor or go to the emergency room.

You should call your pediatrician if:

  • your child is extremely cranky or tired
  • your child has trouble breathing that isn’t improving with suctioning
  • your child is not drinking enough

You should also call your doctor if you just feel something isn’t right – trust your gut.

Respiratory infections: the big picture

Remember, respiratory infections and bronchiolitis in kids are very common. Most of the time, sick babies will need lots of extra tender loving care, but these infections will clear on their own after a few weeks.


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