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Bronchiolitis is a common lung illness in babies and very young children. It’s caused by a virus, usually respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Bronchiolitis happens when the small airways that carry air to the lungs (bronchioles) swell and make more mucous. The bronchioles become narrow, making it harder for your child to breathe. This can make your child cough, wheeze, and have troubling breathing.
Bronchiolitis can start like a cold. At first, your child may have a runny, stuffed-up nose and a cough. They may have a fever in the first few days. Bronchiolitis symptoms tend to get worse until day 4 or 5. Then symptoms slowly get better. Most children feel better in 1 to 2 weeks. But some children have a cough that lasts a few weeks. Antibiotics do not help bronchiolitis get better, because bronchiolitis is caused by a virus. To learn more about bronchiolitis, see the following resources: The ECHO research program at echokt.ca/tools/bronchiolitis has an award-winning video as well as an infographic and an ebook about bronchiolitis. The Alberta Health Services HEAL (Health Education and Learning) program has a printable handout about bronchiolitis (go to ahs.ca and search “HEAL bronchiolitis”).
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
Eating and drinking:
Fever and discomfort:
Children with bronchiolitis can spread the virus (are contagious) for almost a week after they first get sick. Keep your child at home if they’re coughing a lot or having trouble breathing.
Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care.
Call your doctor or Health Link at 811 or seek immediate medical care if:
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter L919 in the search box to learn more about "Bronchiolitis in Children: Care Instructions".
Adaptation Date: 11/15/2022
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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