Bronchiolitis is a childhood disease that affects the lungs. It occurs when a virus enters the breathing system. The virus causes the tiny airways in the lungs to become swollen. As a result, a thick fluid called mucus collects in the airways. This makes it hard for air to flow freely in the lungs.
The infection will usually go away after 7-10 days. Some may show very mild symptoms. In others, the disease can be severe. Younger children are more likely to have severe symptoms because they have smaller airways.
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Bronchiolitis is caused by a virus. There are several different types of virus that may cause it. The viruses are easily spread from person to person like a common cold . It spreads most often through coughs or sneezes which release droplets of moisture into the air. Breathing in the air can cause the infection in a noninfected person.
Bronchiolitis can affect anyone. Some factors that may increase your risk of infection include:
- Age—most likely in children under the age of two, especially between 3-6 months old
- Season—winter months have highest risk
- Factors that increase risk in adults include:
- Exposure to toxic fumes
- Children most at risk are those who:
- Were never breastfed
- Were born prematurely
- Are exposed to tobacco smoke
- Are often in groups of children (as in day care) or live in crowded conditions