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Bronchiolitis is the inflammation of the small airways in the lungs which leads to a build up of mucus causing breathing difficulties. It is a common infection that affects babies and young children and is often caused by an RSV infection.

Premature babies or those born with lung or heart problems are particularly at risk and might need extra care if they develop bronchiolitis.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms to look out for are similar to those of a cold, followed by rapid shallow breathing, a persistent cough, wheezing and mild fever. The length of the illness varies from a couple of days to a week, or possibly two with a lingering cough.

How you can help

Avoid smoking anywhere near your baby or your baby’s environment.

It might help your little one to sleep if you raise the head of his or her cot slightly to aid breathing.

Reducing the risk of infection

Frequent hand washing and limiting your baby’s contact with other infants exhibiting symptoms will help to prevent the spread of this infection.

When to call the doctor

As with RSV, if your baby develops any breathing difficulties you should see your doctor and a brief stay in hospital might be necessary. Oxygen and possibly respiratory support and/or drugs to help with their breathing might be given.

Where to get help

NHS 111 England
NHS Direct Wales 0845 4647
NHS 24 (Scotland) 0845 424 2424

For further information you can order or download our booklet Common winter illnesses


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