Your child has bronchiolitis, which causes swelling and mucus to build up in the smallest air passages of the lungs.
Now that your child is going home from the hospital, follow the health care provider's instructions on how to care for your child. Use the information below as a reminder.
When You're in the Hospital
In the hospital, the provider helped your child breathe better. They also made sure your child received enough fluids.
What to Expect at Home
Your child will likely still have symptoms of bronchiolitis after leaving the hospital.
- Wheezing may last for up to 5 days.
- Coughing and stuffy nose will slowly get better over 7 to 14 days.
- Sleeping and eating may take up to 1 week to return to normal.
- You may need to take time off work to care for your child.
Breathing moist (wet) air helps loosen the sticky mucus that may be choking your child. You can use a humidifier to make the air moist. Follow the directions that came with the humidifier.
Do not use steam vaporizers because they can cause burns. Use cool mist humidifiers instead.
If your child's nose is stuffy, your child will not be able to drink or sleep easily. You can use warm tap water or saline nose drops to loosen the mucus. Both of these work better than any medicine you can buy.
- Place 3 drops of warm water or saline in each nostril.
- Wait 10 seconds, then use a soft rubber suction bulb to suck out the mucus from each nostril.
- Repeat several times until your child is able to breathe through the nose quietly and easily.
Before anyone touches your child, they must wash their hands with warm water and soap or use an alcohol-based hand cleanser before doing so. Try to keep other children away from your child.
Do not let anyone smoke in the house, car, or anywhere near your child.
Eating and Drinking
It is very important for your child to drink enough fluids.
- Offer breast milk or formula if your child is younger than 12 months.
- Offer regular milk if your child is older than 12 months.
Eating or drinking may make your child tired. Feed small amounts, but more often than usual.
If your child throws up because of coughing, wait a few minutes and try to feed your child again.
Some asthma medicines help children with bronchiolitis. Your provider may prescribe such medicines for your child.
Do not give your child decongestant nose drops, antihistamines, or any other cold medicines unless your child's provider tells you to.
When to Call the Doctor
Call the doctor right away if your child has any of the following:
- Hard time breathing
- Chest muscles are pulling in with each breath
- Breathing faster than 50 to 60 breaths per minute (when not crying)
- Making a grunting noise
- Sitting with shoulders hunched over
- Wheezing becomes more intense
- Skin, nails, gums, lips, or area around the eyes is bluish or grayish
- Extremely tired
- Not moving around very much
- Limp or floppy body
- Nostrils are flaring out when breathing
RSV bronchiolitis - discharge; Respiratory syncytial virus bronchiolitis - discharge
Greenland JR, Jones KD, Singer JP. Bronchiolitis. In: Broaddus VC, Ernst JD, King TE, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 72.
Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM. Wheezing, bronchiolitis, and bronchitis. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 418.
Scarfone RJ, Seiden JA. Pediatric lower airway obstruction. In: Walls RM, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 163.
Review Date 6/7/2022
Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.