Bronchiolitis is an infection usually caused by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which produces swelling and mucus production in the small breathing tubes of your child's lungs. Infants aged two to twelve months are the most likely to become infected and usually begin having the symptoms of a common cold, with a runny nose and mild cough. Over the next few days the cough worsens and your child may develop fever, wheezing and difficulty breathing.
There is no cure for bronchiolitis, although some children do improve with breathing treatments with Albuterol nebulizer solution. You will also want to do other things to make your child more comfortable, like giving a pain and fever reliever, plenty of fluids and you may try an OTC decongestants or cough suppressant (although they usually don't work in young children with RSV).
Remember that symptoms, especially the coughing and wheezing, may persist for three or four weeks, although they should gradually be improving during that time period.
You should see your doctor if your child is having difficulty breathing. You can tell if your child is having trouble breathing if he is breathing faster than usual, if you can see the muscles in between his ribs or at the base of his neck moving in and out (retractions), or if he is very irritable or lethargic. While most children do very well when they have bronchiolitis, some do need to be hospitalized.
There is a preventative medication (Synagis) that is taken monthly during the peak season of RSV (November to April) and if your baby was premature or if he already has difficulty with his lungs, then he may need to take this medicine.
Bronchiolitis is usually spread from the secretions from another person that has RSV, either another infant with bronchiolitis or an adult who may just have a cold. Frequent hand washing and avoiding others who are sick can decrease your child's chances of getting this common infection.