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Bronchiolitis in Children: Care Instructions

Child's respiratory system and lungs

Your Care Instructions

Bronchiolitis is a common respiratory illness in babies and very young children. It happens when the bronchiole tubes that carry air to the lungs get inflamed. This can make your child cough or wheeze.

It can start like a cold with a runny nose, congestion, and a cough. In many cases, there is a fever for a few days. The congestion can last a few weeks. The cough can last even longer. Most children feel better in one to two weeks.

Bronchiolitis is caused by a virus. This means that antibiotics won't help bronchiolitis get better.

Most of the time, you can take care of your child at home. But if your child is not getting better or has a hard time breathing, he or she may need to be in the hospital.

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 call line 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.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Have your child drink a lot of fluids.
  • Give acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for fever. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 18. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Do not give a child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Keep your child away from other children while he or she is sick.
  • Wash your hands and your child's hands many times a day. You can also use hand gels or wipes that contain alcohol. This helps prevent spreading the virus to another person.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has severe trouble breathing. Signs may include the chest sinking in, using belly muscles to breathe, or nostrils flaring while your child is struggling to breathe.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has more breathing problems or is breathing faster.
  • You can see your child's skin around the ribs or the neck (or both) sink in deeply when he or she breathes in.
  • Your child's breathing problems make it hard to eat or drink.
  • Your child's face, hands, and feet look a little grey or purple.
  • Your child has a new or higher fever.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child is not getting better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.