Bronchiolitis is an infectious and contagious viral illness involving the small bronchioles (breathing tubes) of the lungs. The Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is responsible for 75% of Bronchiolitis. The remaining 25% is caused by other viruses.

Bronchiolitis usually affects babies less than 1yr old with a peak in age 2 – 10 months of age.

It is more common in winter months and often worse at night.

How it starts:

The illness usually starts with a common ‘head cold” such as a runny nose, cough and mild fever. Children can contract Bronchiolitis from other members of the family suffering from a cold or flu.

As the virus progresses your baby will breathe faster than normal. You may also notice them breathing harder. This increase in their work of breathing may cause babies to have difficulty with feeding. Over the next few days your baby’s cough may become worse and noisy breathing may be heard when the baby exhales.

What to do at home:

  • Try to keep your baby at home and away from other children until they are well
  • Give your child the recommended dose of Paracetamol for irritability and fever (4 doses in a 24hr period only)
  • Keep your baby’s nose clear by cleaning the nostrils with tissues or a drop of salt water (e.g. Narium or FESS) which may be inserted into each nostril before feeding. This is helpful to clear the mucus especially for babies under 6months of age as they are predominately nose breathers
  • Give small frequent feeds to keep baby’s energy levels up to fight the virus.

When to see your doctor:

  • Babies who are preterm, have congenital heart problems or under 3 months of age should see your doctor, as they may take longer to recover
  • If your baby’s breathing is getting worse, i.e. breathing faster, harder, or has noisy breathing
  • If your child becomes increasingly drowsy and pale
  • If your baby is feeding poorly and has fewer wet nappies than normal
  • If you are worried or concerned.

Treatment of Bronchiolitis:

  • Bronchiolitis usually reaches its peak on the 2nd or 3rd day. Most babies are well and back to normal in 7 – 10 days
  • There are no medications that will cure Bronchiolitis. In hospital, secretions may be suctioned from the back of your baby’s nostrils (NPA) to check for certain viruses. This small procedure also helps clear their nose to help them breathe easier
  • Oxygen therapy may need to be administered if your baby is becoming tired and breathing hard
  • If your baby is having difficulty feeding, fluids may need to be given by a nasogastric tube (tube via the nose into the stomach) or into a vein to help keep your baby hydrated and give them calories to help fight the virus
  • Most children are well and back to normal within 7 - 10 days.


This information has being prepared by Laura Mulcahy for First Aid Demonstrations and has being gained through current journals, conferences, workshops, study days and Paediatric Best Practice Treatments and Guidelines from various Paediatric Hospitals throughout Australia. This information should be used as a guideline only. Please speak to your Health Care Professional if you have concerns about your child’s condition.

Fact Sheets

Fever Fact Sheet


Febrile Convulsions


Head Injuries


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