UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Bronchiolitis

Keywords: Bronchiolitis, RSV (PubMed Search)

Posted: 9/10/2010 by Adam Friedlander, MD
Click here to contact Adam Friedlander, MD

As RSV season approaches, remember these key points in managing bronchiolitis:

  • Diagnosis is clinical - labs and XRays will not help you, unless you want to rule out a specific alternate diagnosis.  It's all about the H&P.
  • Supportive care, including bulb suction of secretions, placing the child in a position of comfort, and possibly providing humidified air, is the mainstay of treatment.
    • Ribavirin, corticosteroids, and antibiotics are not indicated.  Don't use them.
    • Bronchodilators have no benefit in bronchiolitis alone, and non-response to bronchodilators supports the diagnosis of bronchiolitis.  If a trial does work, know what you are treating - some children with bronchiolitis may have an underlying component of reactive airway disease, and should be treated accordingly.
  • Before disposition be sure that the child can tolerate PO.  A fussy, tachypneic child may require admission for IV hydration if they are unable to tolerate feeds - recall that infants are obligate nose breathers.
  • Finally, beware the RSV bronchiolitis bounceback - the peak incidence of respiratory failure in RSV bronchiolitis is after 3-4 days of illness, when most children should be improving.


  • American Academy of Pediatrics Subcommittee on Diagnosis and Management of Bronchiolitis. Diagnosis and management of bronchiolitis. Pediatrics. Oct 2006;118(4):1774-93. 
  • Jartti T, Mäkelä MJ, Vanto T, Ruuskanen O. The link between bronchiolitis and asthma. Infect Dis Clin North Am. Sep 2005;19(3):667-89.
  • Kellner JD, Ohlsson A, Gadomski AM, Wang EE. Efficacy of bronchodilator therapy in bronchiolitis. A meta-analysis. Arch PediatrAdolesc Med. Nov 1996;150(11):1166-72.