What is it?


Bronchiolitis is a common illness usually caused by a virus. The most common are RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and rhinovirus, but there are many viruses that can cause bronchiolitis.

Bronchiolitis affects the smallest airways (called bronchioles) throughout the lungs and usually affects babies under the age of 1.

What are the symptoms?

Bronchiolitis often starts with a runny nose and mild cough. Symptoms are often worse at night.

Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Poor feeding
  • Fast and/or noisy breathing (wheezing)
  • Drawing in of the chest with each breath

The second or third day of the illness is usually the most severe.

Bronchiolitis can last for several days. The cough often lasts for 10 to 14 days but it may last as long as a month.


How does it spread?

Viruses are spread through coughing and contact with nasal and mucous secretions. The virus is very infectious and can spread quickly through groups of children.

Image: https://www.kidshealth.org.nz/bronchiolitis

Responsibilities of Early Childhood Education Service

  • Tell the parents that there is bronchiolitis in the centre.
  • Display information about bronchiolitis prominently at your centre and provide each family with a copy of this factsheet.
  • Make sure staff and children’s hands are washed often with soap and warm water and are dried to help prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Avoid ‘shared kai’ platters (staff to serve onto plates with tongs).
  • Remove playdough, slimes, gloop, paint brushes and water play to reduce the risk of spread.
  • Remove any toys/resources that cannot be wiped down easily, e.g. soft toys, cane baskets.
  • Make sure children are not sharing food, drink and eating utensils, or toys likely to be placed in the mouth.
  • Wash all toys and surfaces with hot soapy water, and then disinfect with a diluted bleach solution.

Make up a new bleach solution daily. Check on your bottle of bleach for the percentage of sodium hypochlorite, and make up as per table below.

Strength of bottleBleach (ml)Water (ml)Total (ml)
Responsibilities of parents
  • Make sure your child has plenty of rest and has small amounts of fluid often.
  • Keep children at home until fully recovered.
  • See your GP, after-hours service or call Healthline on 0800 611 116 for advice, or dial 111 in an emergency.

For more information




Download printable factsheet

Last updated 14 July 2022.