What is Bronchiolitis?

Bronchiolitis is an infection that causes the tiniest airways in your child’s lungs to become swollen. This can make it more difficult for your child to breathe:

  • Bronchiolitis is caused by virus infections.
  • It is common in winter months and usually only causes mild cold like symptoms.
  • Most children get better on their own.
  • Some children, especially very young ones, can have difficulty with breathing or feeding and may need to go to hospital.
What are the Symptoms?
  • Your child may have a runny nose and sometimes a temperature and a cough.
  • After a few days your child’s cough may become worse.
  • Your child’s breathing may be faster than normal and it may become noisy.
  • He or she may need to make more effort to breathe.
  • Sometimes, in the very young babies, bronchiolitis may cause them to have brief pauses in their breathing.
  • As breathing becomes more difficult, your baby may not be able to take their usual amount of milk by breast or bottle.
  • You may notice fewer wet nappies than usual.
  • Your child may vomit after feeding and become miserable.

When should you worry?

If your child has any of the following:

Breathing very fast or breathing that stops or pauses

Working hard to breathe, drawing in of the muscles below the rib, unable to talk or noisy breathing (grunting)

A harsh breath noise as they breathe in (stridor) present all of the time (even when they are not upset)

Becomes pale, blue, mottled and/or unusually cold to touch

Difficult to wake up, very sleepy or confused

Weak, high-pitched, continuous cry or extremely agitated

Has a fit (seizure)

A temperature less than 36oC.

A temperature 38oC or more if baby is less than 3 months

Develops a rash that does not disappear with pressure and seems unwell (see the 'Glass Test')

You need urgent help.

Go to the nearest Hospital Emergency (A&E) Department or phone 999.

If your child has any of the following:

If your child has any of the following:

Breathing a bit faster than normal or working a bit harder to breathe

Noisy breathing (stridor) only when upset

Dry skin, lips, tongue or looking pale

Not had a wee or wet nappy in last 12 hours

Sleepy or not responding normally

Crying and unsettled

Poor feeding (babies) or not drinking (children)

A temperature 39oC or above in babies 3-6 months

Temperature of 38oC or above for more than 5 days or shivering with fever(rigors)

Getting worse or you are worried about them

You need to contact a doctor or nurse today.

Please ring your GP surgery or call NHS 111 - dial 111.

If none of the features in the red or amber boxes above are present.

Watch them closely for any change and look out for any red or amber symptoms. For additional advice please follow the support available for families to help cope with crying in otherwise well babies

Self care


Using the advice below you can look after your child at home.


  • If your child is not feeding as normal offer smaller feeds but more frequently. 
  • Children with bronchiolitis may have some signs of distress and discomfort. You may wish to give either Paracetamol or liquid Ibuprofen to give some relief of symptoms (Paracetamol can be given from 2 months of age). Please read and follow the instructions on the medicine container.
  • If your child is already taking medicines or inhalers, you should carry on using these. If you find it difficult to get your child to take them, ask your Pharmacist, Health Visitor or GP. Bronchiolitis is caused by a virus so antibiotics will not help.
  • Make sure your child is not exposed to tobacco smoke. Passive smoking can seriously damage your child’s health. It makes breathing problems like bronchiolitis worse.
  • Remember smoke remains on your clothes even if you smoke outside.

If you would like help to give up smoking you can get information / advice from your local GP surgery or by calling the National Stop Smoking Helpline Tel: 0800 169 0 169 from 7am to 11pm every day.

  • Most children with bronchiolitis will seem to worsen during the first 1-3 days of the illness before beginning to improve over the next two weeks. The cough may go on for a few more weeks. Antibiotics are not required.
  • Your child can go back to nursery or day care as soon as he or she is well enough (that is feeding normally and with no difficulty in breathing).
  • There is usually no need to see your doctor if your child is recovering well. But if you are worried about your child’s progress discuss this with your Health Visitor, Practice Nurse or GP or contact NHS 111.

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