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Bronchiolitis

What is bronchiolitis?
Bronchiolitis is an infection in the lung (in the breathing tubes) caused by a virus.

How does bronchiolitis start?
Bronchiolitis can start as a cold, with a runny nose and a slight fever for two to three days.  Then your child may begin to cough, breathe fast and wheeze (noisy breathing).  The 2nd or 3rd day of the illness is usually the worst.  The wheezing and difficulty breathing lasts for several days and then the child gradually improves.  The cough usually lasts 10-14 days but may last as long as a month.

Who get bronchiolitis?
Children under one year often get this illness.  Bronchiolitis is most common in the winter months, especially in July and August.

Some things you can do at home to help your baby are:

  • Give your baby plenty to drink e.g. breast milk, formula.  If your baby is getting tired while feeding try offering smaller feeds more often.
  • Keep your baby's nose clear by using saline nose drops (from a pharmacy).  One to two drops can be placed in your baby's nose before feeds.
  • Keep your baby warm and comfortable.
  • Give your baby as much rest as possible.
  • Don't smoke around your child.
  • If your baby has a fever give Paracetamol (Panadol or Pamol).  (Do not give more than four doses in 24 hours).


Go and see your GP early, or call your GP or an after hours doctor if any of the following warning signs develop:

  • Your child is vomiting or your child is having trouble drinking fluids.  For example, if your child is drinking less than half their normal amount, or your child has no wet nappies for 6 hours.
  • Your child is making a grunting noise when breathing.
  • You can see your child's skin pull in between the ribs with each breath.
  • Your child has a blue colour around the lips.
  • Your child has problems staying awake when they aren't normally sleepy or your child appears floppy.
  • Your child stops breathing sometimes.
  • You child develops a rash.

This page was last updated at 11:08AM on August 4, 2021.