Bronchiolitis is a very common childhood infection of part of
the lungs. A virus called respiratory syncytial virus, “RSV,” causes
it. There are common ways to diagnose bronchiolitis and treat the
symptoms. However, there is no medicine that gets rid of the virus
causing it. The handout describes how bronchiolitis is diagnosed and
treated, ways to decreased spreading the infection, and possible
Research studies show that using antibiotics does not decrease length
of illness for young children <2 years old with bronchiolitis.
Research has shown there is a low risk of a child with bronchiolitis
having an additional serious bacterial infection. This is usually true
even even if the child has a fever or chest x-ray showing pneumonia.
The harm of giving a child an antibiotic are side effects like
diarrhea, possible allergy, and risk of making bacteria more resistant
to antibiotics. When there is no benefit to giving antibiotics, it is
not worth risking the possible harms.
Some children will get very sick from bronchiolitis and might need to
be in the hospital for certain treatments. Some children with certain
medical conditions get medicine to prevent bronchiolitis. Once in
awhile children with bronchiolitis might also have an ear infection or
urinary tract infection. Antibiotics do help these infections.
More children who have bronchiolitis when young will get asthma than
children who do not have the infection, but no one knows why. The best
way to prevent spreading the infection is hand-washing. Babies who are
breast-fed and babies who are not around cigarette smoke have a lower
chance of getting bronchiolitis.
The information provided in this handout does not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Minnesota Medical School physicians and faculty. These materials are provided for informational purposes only and are in no way intended to take the place of the advice and recommendations of your personal health care provider. You use the information provided in these handouts at your own risk.
My baby or child has bronchiolitis: an infection of the lungs.
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