Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

What are the Symptoms of Bronchiolitis?

Symptoms of bronchiolitis may include:

  • Wheezing
  • Wheezy cough
  • Rapid breathing
  • Bluish skin (due to lack of oxygen)
  • Nostrils flaring with each breath
  • Muscles between the ribs retract with each breath
  • Fever

How is Bronchiolitis Detected?

To diagnose bronchiolitis, the doctor may test for decreased blood oxygen levels and listen for wheezing and crackling sounds in the chest through the stethoscope. The doctor may order a chest x-ray and do a test of nasal fluids to find out which virus is present.

How is Bronchiolitis Treated?

Some cases of bronchiolitis do not need treatment.

Treatment of symptoms can include:

  • Chest clapping
  • Drinking clear fluids
  • Breathing in humidified air
  • Rest

Antibiotics are not effective against bronchiolitis. If your child is hospitalized for bronchiolitis, he or she may be given albuterol (a medication normally used in asthma) or steroids.

Extremely ill children may be given antiviral medications such as ribavirin. This treatment may decrease the severity and length of the illness. They must be given early in the course of the illness in order to be effective.

Usually, breathing difficulties improve by the third day of the illness, and overall, symptoms improve within a week.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Call your health care provider immediately, or go to the emergency room if your child with bronchiolitis:

  • Develops a bluish color in the skin, nails, or lips
  • Develops rapid, shallow breathing
  • Has a cold that suddenly gets worse
  • Has trouble breathing
  • Flares nostrils or retracts chest muscles when trying to breathe
  • Becomes lethargic