(a cause of persistent cough, mild fever and feeding difficulties in infants) Advice for parents and carers of children younger than 1 year old

Bronchiolitis is an infection that causes the small airways in your child’s lungs to
become swollen. This can make it more difficult for your child to breathe.

  • Bronchiolitis affects children under the age of 2. It is caused by a virus, often
  • the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).
  • The number of children with RSV is usually highest in winter but bronchiolitis can happen at any time of year. 
  • Bronchiolitis usually causes cold like symptoms and mild breathing difficulty.
  • Breathing may be faster than normal as well as noisy and your child may not
  • be able to take their usual amount of milk by breast or bottle.
  • Your child may get a little worse each day until the 3rd or 4th day of their
  • illness after which they are likely to start improving.
  • Most children get better on their own. There are no medical treatments that speed up recovery from bronchiolitis. Many children will continue to cough for a few weeks afterwards.
  • Some children, especially those under 6 weeks of age or young children with heart or lung problems, can develop worse breathing difficulty and may need to go to hospital for help supporting their breathing and feeding.

QR code for Bronchiolitis and RSV page

If your child has any of the following:

  • Breathing very fast or breathing that stops or pauses
  • Makes a grunting noise every time they breathe out
  • A harsh noise as they breathe in (stridor) present all of the time (even when they are not upset)
  • Becomes pale, blue, mottled and/or unusually cold to touch
  • Difficult to wake up, very sleepy or confused
  • Weak, high-pitched, continuous cry or can’t be settled
  • Has a fit (seizure)
  • Is under 3 months old with temperature more than 38°C or under 36°C (unless fever in the 48 hours following vaccinations and no other red or amber features)
  • Has a rash that does not go away with pressure (the ‘Glass Test’)

You need urgent help.

Go to the nearest Hospital Emergency (A&E) Department or phone 999

If your child has any of the following

  • Working hard to breathe, drawing in of the muscles below the ribs
  • A harsh noise as they breathe in (stridor) only when upset
  • Dry skin, lips or tongue
  • Not had a wee or wet nappy in last 8 hours
  • Poor feeding in babies (less than half of their usual amount)
  • Irritable (Unable to settle them with toys, TV, food or hugs even after their fever has come down)
  • Is 3-6 months old with temperature 39oC or above (unless fever in the 48 hours following vaccinations and no other red or amber features)
  • Temperature of 38oC or above for more than 5 days or shivering with fever (rigors)
  • Temperature less than 36°C in those over 3 months
  • Getting worse or you are worried about them

You need to contact a doctor or nurse today.

Please ring your GP surgery or call NHS 111 - dial 111

If your child has none of the above

  • Watch them closely for any change and look out for any red or amber symptoms
  • Additional advice is also available for families for help cope with crying in otherwise well babies
  • If your child has a long term condition or disability and you are worried please contact your regular team or follow any plans that they have given you.

Self care

Continue providing your child’s care at home. If you are still concerned about your child, call NHS 111 – dial 111

This guidance has been reviewed and adapted by healthcare professionals across North East and North Cumbria with consent from the Hampshire development groups.

This guidance is written by healthcare professionals from across Hampshire, Dorset and the Isle of Wight.

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