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Living With Bronchiolitis

Managing Bronchiolitis

Most people with bronchiolitis lead productive lives without significant problems, as it may either go away by itself, by avoiding harmful exposures, or with medication.

Medications are prescribed to patients with symptoms or whose bronchiolitis is severe or is worsening. As many factors can cause bronchiolitis, it is not always possible to predict whether any single drug will work. Some drugs prescribed by doctors for bronchiolitis are listed here:

  • Albuterol – this is an inhaled medication most commonly used for asthma. Albuterol dilates the bronchial tubes and can help with symptoms by causing the airways to open up slightly.
  • Corticosteroids – prednisone is the most common corticosteroid used in the treatment of bronchiolitis and other lung conditions. Corticosteroids work by reducing inflammation through suppressing the immune system. Side effects include increased appetite, weight gain, high blood sugar levels. If taken for a long time, they can increase the risk of osteoporosis and cataracts.
  • "Macrolide" antibiotics – azithromycin is the most commonly prescribed of these medicines. Although usually used to fight infection, these antibiotics also fight inflammation and are helpful in managing some lung diseases.
  • Other medicines that affect the immune system – some drugs are rarely prescribed for more severe cases. Their names include azathioprine, methotrexate and cyclophosphamide. They often require blood tests to make sure that the dosage is right.

Lung transplantation is very rarely recommended, and only for the sickest patients whose bronchiolitis is life-threatening, and who do not respond to medications.

Finding Support

Bronchiolitis is relatively common, and so your doctor may be able to provide information or literature about it. The Lung Association recommends patients and caregivers join our Living with Lung Disease Support Community to connect with others facing this disease. You can also call the Lung Association's Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA to talk to a trained respiratory professional who can help answer your questions and connect you with additional support.

    This content was developed in partnership with the CHEST Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American College of Chest Physicians.

    Page Last Updated: March 13, 2018

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