Bronchiolitis is an inflammation in the bronchioles, or small airways in the lungs. It is characterized by wheezing. It usually affects children under 2 years of age.
What is going on in the body?
Bronchiolitis is a common condition in which an infection, such as a cold or flu, causes the bronchioles, or small airways in the lungs, to swell. Along with the swelling, there is an increased amount of mucus produced. This is a common illness in children under the age of 2, although it may sometimes affect older people. Bronchiolitis can be more serious in infants and young children, because their airways are much narrower than in adults or older children.
What are the causes and risks of the disease?
The most common cause of bronchiolitis is a virus called respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. Other viruses and certain types of bacterial infections can also cause bronchiolitis. Bronchiolitis can occur in a child when someone who has a cold or the flu spreads this virus to the child. Most cases of bronchiolitis occur in the winter and early spring. Most children with bronchiolitis have mild symptoms. However, about 5% of children with this illness have to be hospitalized. Whether this is necessary depends on:
how young the child is
how much trouble the child has breathing
whether the child is getting enough oxygen
whether the child is able to eat well enough during the illness
The majority of children with bronchiolitis do very well. They usually get over their symptoms in about 7 to 10 days.