Bronchiolitis Advice

Cork Emergency Departments

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What is it?

Bronchiolitis is a common chest infection, especially affecting infants <12 months age.

It is most often caused by a viral infection in the lungs. It causes swelling and mucous build up in the small airway tubules of the lungs, making it difficult for your baby to breathe.


It begins as a cold: sneezing, runny or blocked nose, cough.

Next, your baby may have some difficulty breathing, including:

Other signs:

Note that symptoms are worst on day 3, may persist up to 10 days and coughing can continue up to 4 weeks.


Bronchiolitis is diagnosed by the symptoms, and by clinical examination. Blood tests, chest x‐rays and nose swabs are not effective to diagnose bronchiolitis.


Most babies need no hospital intervention and can recover at home. Some babies who need admission require tube feeding: a small tube passed through the nostril into the stomach is a safe and effective way to assist your child with feeding. Occasionally if your baby is very unwell, an intravenous cannula will be inserted for fluid support through your baby’s vein and oxygen if there is difficulty breathing.

Medicines such as corticosteroids, nebulisers, inhalers or antibiotics are not proven to help for infants with bronchiolitis, and causes unnecessary distress.

Most babies qualify for home treatment after medical review.

Give smaller feeds of formula or breastfeed more frequently. This provides an adequate feed without tiring you baby.

If your baby has a blocked nose, saline nose drops can assist in clearing the nasal passages.

Special precautions

The virus is contagious for the first few days, and is spread through contact with mucous and saliva. Your child can safely return back to crèche once symptoms have resolved or after 1 week.

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Red flags

Take your child back to a doctor urgently:

If you are concerned, please contact the Emergency Department you first attended: MUH (021) 4271971 M-UCC at SMHC (St. Mary’s Health Campus) (021) 4926900 CUH (021) 4920200 LIU Mallow General Hospital (022) 58506 Bantry General Hospital (027) 52900

Content by Content by Dr Lizeri Jansen, Dr Rory O’Brien, PEM at CUH, 14/12/2019. Last reviewed Dr IOS 17/06/21.