Bronchiolitis: Types, Causes and Treatment

General information.

Bronchiolitis is a viral respiratory disease that affects the smaller airways in the lungs called bronchioles; they branch out, controlling the flow of air. When they become infected, they swell or become blocked, blocking the passage of oxygen to the lungs. Although this disease is usually a childhood condition, adults may also be affected.

Types of bronchiolitis

There are two types.

  1. Viral Bronchiolitis is the most common and appears mainly in babies.
  2. Bronchiolitis obliterans . It is a rare and dangerous disease in adults in which scarring occurs, rather than inflammation, blocking the air passages and causing the closure of the affected part of the lung.

What causes bronchiolitis?

Viral Bronchiolitis is caused by viruses that enter and infect the respiratory tract, microscopic organisms that can reproduce rapidly and challenge the immune system. The following are the most common viral infections that can cause Bronchiolitis.

The respiratory syncytial virus is the most common cause of Bronchiolitis. It usually attacks babies under one year of age. This contagious and dangerous viral infection produces respiratory tract inflammation and mucus.

Adenoviruses these viruses target mucous membranes and cause about 10 percent of all respiratory tract infections in children.

Flu virus. These viruses cause inflammation in the lungs, nose, and throat.


The flu. It affects adults and children, but mainly it is more dangerous for babies whose immune systems are not robust.

The causes of Bronchiolitis obliterans

This condition rarely occurs without a known reason. Severe cases can lead to death if not treated in time. Some causes have been identified and include:

  • Vapors of chemical agents such as ammonia, bleach, and chlorine.
  • Respiratory infections.
  • Adverse reactions to medications.

Who is at risk for Bronchiolitis?

Viral Bronchiolitis affects children younger than two years but usually manifests in children 3 to 6 months. Some risk factors for viral Bronchiolitis in infants and young children are:

  • Not being breastfed
  • Having been born prematurely or with any disease of the heart or lungs.
  • Have a depressed immune system.
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke.
  • Be exposed to overcrowded environments, such as daycare centers, where the virus may be present.

The most common risk factors for Bronchiolitis obliterans in adults are:

  • Conditions that exhibit exposure to hazardous chemicals in the workplace.
  • A heart disease, lung, or bone marrow transplant
  • A connective tissue disease

What are the symptoms of Bronchiolitis?

Both viral bronchiolitis and bronchiolitis obliterans present similar symptoms. These include:

  • Short of breath.
  • Bluish appearance of the skin due to lack of oxygen.
  • Crypts that are heard in the lungs.
  • Fatigue.
  • The ribs sink when the child tries to inhale.
  • Nasal flutter in babies.
  • Fast breathing.
  • Wheezing or whistling sound when breathing.

The symptoms of Bronchiolitis obliterans can manifest two weeks or a little more than one month after exposure to chemicals. A lung infection can take several months to several years to produce symptoms.

How is Bronchiolitis diagnosed?

There are several ways to diagnose both types of Bronchiolitis:

Projection of test images, including chest x-rays, is usually used to diagnose children and adults. A standard tool used in adults is simple or pre and post-bronchodilator spirometry, which measures the amount and speed of air taken with each breath. Blood gas tests for both types of Bronchiolitis measure the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. Nasal mucus secretion samples can be used to diagnose what type of virus is causing the infection. This test method is commonly used with infants and young children.

Treatment for Broquiolitis

Viral Bronchiolitis requires different treatments than Bronchiolitis obliterans.

Facials ent for viral bronchiolitis

Many cases of viral Bronchiolitis are so mild that they resolve independently without treatment. However, since this condition affects infants more frequently, hospitalization may be necessary for more severe cases. A hospital can provide oxygen and intravenous fluid treatments that may be necessary. Antibiotics are useless against viruses, but some medications can be used to help open your baby’s airway.

Treatment for Bronchiolitis obliterans

Although there is no cure for scarring in Bronchiolitis obliterans, corticosteroids can help remove mucus from the lungs, reduce inflammation, and open airways. Oxygen treatments and medications to strengthen the immune system may be necessary. Breathing exercises and stress reduction can help reduce respiratory distress. A lung transplant may be the best resource in the most severe cases of lung damage.

Home care

Both conditions require additional rest and an increase in fluid intake. Keeping the air in the home clean of smoke and chemicals is very important. A humid air humidifier can also help recover a patient with Bronchiolitis.