Bronchiolitis - Diagnosis & Treatment

How is bronchiolitis diagnosed?

Bronchiolitis is often diagnosed on clinical examination by your doctor. In most cases, blood tests, nasal swabs and x-rays are not required for diagnosis.

You should bring your child to a doctor if they display any of the following symptoms:

  • Wheezing
  • Hard or fast breathing with recessions in the ribcage muscles, flaring of the nostrils or bobbing head motions in younger children or in babies
  • Changes in facial colour (pale, blue or turning red on coughing)
  • Irregular breathing or pauses in breathing
  • Increased lethargy
  • Refusal to drink

How is bronchiolitis treated?

Since bronchiolitis is caused by a virus, antibiotics are ineffective. Other medications such as nebulised adrenaline or steroids are also ineffective against bronchiolitis.

If your child:

  • Has mild symptoms, you should:
    • Ensure your child gets sufficient rest for recovery.
    • Feed your child small but frequent fluids to keep them well hydrated.
    • Split feeds into half and shorten the time interval between meals to overcome poor appetite.
    • Use saline drops or nasal sprays to keep the nasal passage clear.
  • Is refusing to feed, breathing hard or fast, or becoming lethargic, you should consider admitting your child for closer monitoring. They may additional treatments such as oxygen, nebulised saline or supplemental fluids through a drip.

Recovery period for bronchiolitis

Your child may continue to be unwell for 7 – 10 days. As they recover, the cough can continue to persist for up to 4 weeks.

It’s also possible for your child to get bronchiolitis again, as there are many viruses that can cause bronchiolitis.

This page has been reviewed by our medical content reviewers.

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