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Bronchiolitis is a disorder caused by viral infection of  the respiratory system, specifically the small air tubes of the lower respiratory tract. This is distinguished from "bronchitis" which is an infection of the larger air tubes within your lungs, and is rarely diagnosed in young children.
Bronchiolitis is  typically diagnosed in children less than 2 years of  age. Symptoms  associated with bronchiolitis  include wheezing, cough, increased respiratory rate  and increased respiratory effort. Grunting and nasal flaring are some signs of increased respiratory effort that caregivers may note.
Many viruses may cause bronchiolitis. The most common is RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus).  Ninety percent of children are infected with RSV by 2 years of age and 40% of them will have a lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI). LRTI can lead to an episode of bronchiolitis. 
Children may experience repeated episodes of RSV infection. Thus, it is possible for a child to have recurrent episodes of bronchiolitis related to RSV or other viral infections. Research has demonstrated that RSV infection may increase the likelihood of childhood asthma. However, every child that has bronchiolitis will not develop asthma. 
Bronchiolitis is a clinical diagnosis. It is based on a clinician's review of history and physical exam. Bloodwork and X-rays are rarely required to make the diagnosis.
Treatment options are limited. The most important part of management is assessing your child's respiratory status as well as the impact on feeding and hydration. Medications may be prescribed depending on the particular clinical situation. Since bronchiolitis is caused by viral infection, it is not treated with antibiotics. If your child is found to have a bacterial infection in addition to bronchiolitis, then appropriate medications will be prescribed.
Since treatment options are mostly supportive in nature, the most effective intervention is prevention. Consistent and effective hand-washing is the most important measure to avoid infection and subsequent development of bronchiolitis.
If you have questions regarding bronchiolitis, please contact our staff for answers.  If you have concerns about your child's symptoms and would like to have him or her evaluated, please contact the office to schedule an appointment.

© 2011 Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
PAMPA is a pediatric medical practice in north Atlanta, Georgia consisting of twelve pediatricians, five nurses,
and four locations in Roswell, Woodstock, Atlanta, and Marietta. area.
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