Information for the public



Bronchiolitis is an illness that babies and children up to 2 years old can get, and a third of children will have had it by their first birthday. They're most likely to get it when they are aged between 3 and 6 months old, and will usually catch it in the winter months (October to March). It usually starts as a runny or blocked nose, but over 2 to 3 days the small airways (bronchioles) in the lungs get infected, inflamed and clogged up with mucous. This makes it hard for children to breathe and feed.

In most children bronchiolitis is mild and their breathing and feeding get better within 5 days, though their cough may take longer to go (usually by around 3 weeks, but sometimes it can be longer). There are no medicines that can cure bronchiolitis, but the normal medicines you would give for a cold (like paracetamol or ibuprofen) can help make the symptoms better.

Children with bronchiolitis can most often be cared for at home, though a few (about 3 in every 100) will need to go to hospital to get help with their breathing and feeding. Bronchiolitis can be serious, and some children are at risk of it being worse for them (see are there any things that could affect my child's illness?), but it's extremely rare for it to cause death.

  • Information Standard