Bronchiolitis (inflammation of the bronchi)

Chest | Pulmonology | Bronchiolitis (inflammation of the bronchi) (Disease)


Bronchiolitis is inflammation of the smallest air passages of the lungs called bronchioles, usually due to a viral infection. It most frequently occurs in infants, commonly younger than 6 months of age. Typically, bronchiolitis occurs during the winter months.

Bronchiolitis begins as a mild upper respiratory infection that is continued with more breathing problems. Symptoms include: bluish skin due to lack of oxygen (cyanosis); breathing difficulty including wheezing and shortness of breath; cough; fatigue; fever; muscles around the ribs sink in as the child tries to breathe in (called intercostal retractions); nasal flaring in infants and rapid breathing (tachypnea).

Causes and Risk factors

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most common cause. Other viruses that can cause bronchiolitis include: Adenovirus, Influenza and Parainfluenza. Risk factors for bronchiolitis include: an underlying heart or lung condition, age younger than 6 months old; being born prematurely, not being breastfed, being around cigarette smoke, living in crowded conditions, contact with multiple children, such as in a child care setting, a depressed immune system.

Complications of severe bronchiolitis may include: airway disease, including asthma, later in life, respiratory failure, dehydration and fatigue. Infrequently, bronchiolitis is accompanied by another lung infection such as bacterial pneumonia, which is treated separately.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Auscultation may is used to check the wheezing. Other tests that are recommended such as: chest X-ray, blood test and mucus test.

Sometimes, no treatment is necessary. Because viruses cause bronchiolitis, antibiotics arent effective against it. Anti-viral medication may be prescribed. ...