Symptoms of bronchiolitis

Bronchiolitis usually starts like a simple cold.

Most babies will only have mild symptoms and you can look after them at home. These symptoms can include:

The symptoms of bronchiolitis and pneumonia are very similar especially in children up to 2 years old. Only your doctor will be able to make a firm diagnosis. Focus on treating your child’s symptoms. We’ve got more information about when to visit your doctor and when to call 999.

  • a slightly high temperature (fever)
  • a dry and persistent raspy cough
  • difficulty feeding
  • rapid or noisy breathing (wheezing)

Some babies have more severe symptoms. They might find it hard to feed and become very breathless or breathe in a shallow, irregular way. Look to see if your child’s breathing pauses for more than 20 seconds. This is really important for young or premature babies, as it might be the only symptom.

If your baby has a cold that goes on for longer than usual, watch out for these symptoms:

  • they are struggling to breathe. They may grunt or draw the muscles under their chest in when they breathe. This makes them look like they are breathing with their tummies.
  • they are not feeding well - taking half to three quarters of their normal amount
  • they’ve had no wet nappies for 12 hours or more
  • they are sleepier or less alert than usual
  • they have a high temperature - 38C (101F) or above
  • they pause in their breathing for 20 seconds or more
  • the colour of your baby's skin inside the lips or under the tongue turns blue

In some cases, you may need to seek urgent help.

If you have concerns or need advice, call our helpline on 03000 030 555 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

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Last medically reviewed: September 2016. Due for review: September 2019

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.