Practical Advice For Parents Managing Bronchiolitis At Home:


Bronchiolitis is a common respiratory infection that primarily affects infants and young children. It is typically caused by a viral infection, with the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) being the most common culprit. This condition leads to inflammation and congestion in the small airways (bronchioles) of the lungs, causing breathing difficulties. As a parent, managing bronchiolitis at home can be challenging, but with the right information and practical advice, you can help your child recover and stay comfortable. This blog aims to provide a comprehensive guide to understanding bronchiolitis, recognizing its symptoms, and implementing effective home care strategies.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Bronchiolitis:

Identifying the symptoms of bronchiolitis early on is crucial for effective management. Here are the primary symptoms parents should look out for:

Coughing and Wheezing:

Coughing is often one of the first signs of bronchiolitis. It can range from mild to severe and is typically accompanied by wheezing a high-pitched, whistling sound made during breathing. Wheezing occurs because the small airways in the lungs are narrowed or blocked due to inflammation and mucus buildup. While occasional coughing and mild wheezing can be managed at home, persistent or severe symptoms warrant medical attention.

Labored Breathing:

“Children with bronchiolitis may exhibit labored or rapid breathing. You might notice that your child’s chest or stomach muscles are working harder than usual to breathe. This can include flaring of the nostrils, grunting, or retractions (when the skin between the ribs or around the neck pulls in during breathing). Labored breathing is a sign that your child is struggling to get enough air and requires careful monitoring”. Says Allen Seavert, Director of American TMS Clinics.


“A low-grade fever is common in children with bronchiolitis. While a fever is the body’s natural response to infection, it can make your child uncomfortable. Monitoring your child’s temperature and keeping them hydrated is essential. If the fever persists for more than a few days or reaches a high level, it is important to seek medical advice”. Says, Martin Orefice, CEO of Rent to Own Labs.

Runny Nose and Congestion:

Similar to other respiratory infections, bronchiolitis often begins with symptoms of a common cold, such as a runny nose and nasal congestion. These symptoms can lead to difficulty feeding and sleeping for infants and young children. Using saline drops and a bulb syringe can help clear nasal passages and provide relief.

Decreased Appetite:

“Illness can lead to a reduced appetite in children. Infants may have difficulty breastfeeding or taking a bottle, and older children might eat less than usual. Ensuring your child stays hydrated is crucial, even if they are not eating much. Offer small, frequent feedings and encourage fluid intake to prevent dehydration”. Says, Dr. Angela Fitch, cofounder of Knownwell and president of the Obesity Medicine Association

Irritability and Fatigue:

“Bronchiolitis can cause children to become more irritable and fatigued than usual. The discomfort and difficulty breathing can make it hard for them to rest and sleep properly. Creating a calm and soothing environment can help your child feel more comfortable and aid in their recovery”. Says, Dr. Marc Gibber, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Baptist Health South Florida.

Practical Home Care Strategies for Managing Bronchiolitis:

Managing bronchiolitis at home involves a combination of supportive care and practical strategies to help alleviate symptoms and promote recovery. Here are some effective home care tips for parents:

Ensure Adequate Hydration:

Keeping your child well-hydrated is vital, especially if they have a fever or are experiencing rapid breathing, which can lead to fluid loss. Offer breast milk, formula, or water frequently, and encourage older children to drink fluids such as water, diluted juice, or electrolyte solutions. Dehydration can worsen symptoms and delay recovery, so monitoring fluid intake is essential.

Use a Humidifier:

“A cool-mist humidifier can help ease breathing difficulties by adding moisture to the air, which can soothe irritated airways and loosen mucus. Place the humidifier in your child’s bedroom, especially at night, to help them sleep more comfortably. Be sure to clean and maintain the humidifier regularly to prevent mold and bacteria buildup”. Says, Oliver, CMO of Good Days

Practice Gentle Nasal Suctioning:

For infants and young children who cannot blow their noses, gentle nasal suctioning can help clear nasal congestion. Use saline drops to loosen mucus, then use a bulb syringe or nasal aspirator to remove it. This can help improve breathing and feeding.

Maintain an Upright Position:

Keeping your child in an upright position, especially during feeding and sleeping, can help ease breathing and reduce coughing. Use a car seat, or stroller, or hold your child upright to promote better airflow and comfort. For older children, propping up their heads with pillows while they sleep can also be beneficial.

Offer Small, Frequent Meals:

Due to decreased appetite and difficulty breathing, your child may not eat as much as usual. Offer smaller, more frequent meals or snacks to ensure they are getting enough nutrients and staying hydrated. Avoid forcing your child to eat, but encourage fluid intake.

Monitor Symptoms Closely:

“Keep a close eye on your child’s symptoms and behavior. Track their temperature, breathing patterns, and any changes in appetite or activity levels. If symptoms worsen or if you notice signs of dehydration (such as dry mouth, decreased urine output, or sunken eyes), labored breathing, or a high fever, seek medical attention promptly”. Says, Gen Yan,  Founder of HoneyChat.

When to Seek Medical Attention:

While many cases of bronchiolitis can be managed at home, there are certain situations where medical attention is necessary. Here are some red flags that indicate it is time to consult a healthcare provider:

Persistent or Worsening Symptoms: If your child’s symptoms do not improve after a few days or if they worsen, it is important to seek medical advice. This includes increased difficulty breathing, severe coughing, or high fever.

Signs of Dehydration: If your child shows signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth, lack of tears when crying, decreased urine output, or lethargy, seek medical attention immediately.

Labored Breathing: If your child is struggling to breathe, with signs such as grunting, flaring nostrils, or retractions, it is crucial to get medical help. Rapid or shallow breathing is also a concern.

Cyanosis: If you notice a bluish tint to your child’s lips, face, or nails, this indicates a lack of oxygen and requires urgent medical attention.

Lethargy and Unresponsiveness: If your child becomes unusually sleepy, difficult to wake, or unresponsive, seek immediate medical care.

Preventive Measures:

Preventing bronchiolitis involves reducing the risk of viral infections. Here are some preventive measures to consider:

Hand Hygiene: Encourage frequent handwashing with soap and water for everyone in the household. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

Avoid Exposure: Keep your child away from people who are sick, especially during peak respiratory infection seasons. Avoid crowded places and limit exposure to large groups.

Vaccinations: Ensure your child is up to date on vaccinations, including the flu shot and, if eligible, the RSV prophylaxis. Vaccinations can help prevent infections that may lead to bronchiolitis.

Breastfeeding: If possible, continue breastfeeding, as breast milk provides antibodies that can help protect your child from infections.

Clean and Disinfect: Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as toys, doorknobs, and countertops, to reduce the spread of germs.


Bronchiolitis can be a challenging condition for both children and their parents. However, with the right knowledge and practical home care strategies, you can manage the symptoms and support your child’s recovery. Recognizing the symptoms, ensuring adequate hydration, using a humidifier, practicing gentle nasal suctioning, maintaining an upright position, offering small, frequent meals, and closely monitoring symptoms are all effective ways to care for your child at home. While many cases of bronchiolitis can be managed with supportive care, it is important to be vigilant and seek medical attention when necessary. Preventive measures, such as good hand hygiene, avoiding exposure to sick individuals, keeping up with vaccinations, and maintaining a clean environment, can also help reduce the risk of bronchiolitis. Stay informed and proactive can help your child recover and maintain their overall health and well-being.