By Dr Evelyn Lewin

Bronchitis is a viral infection that affects breathing in babies (up to 12 months of age). It is more common in babies under 6 months of age. The airways become swollen and inflamed, meaning less air is carried in the lungs. The baby is therefore short of breath, and breathes faster (and uses more muscles) to try to get more air in.


Babies with Bronchitis start off with cold-like symptoms for 1-2 days (e.g. runny nose, sneezing). Then, a cough develops and the child struggles to breathe. They may have a wheeze when breathing. Babies with bronchiolitis may also have the following symptoms:

  • Fast breathing rate
  • They may use accessory muscles of breathing in their chest
  • They may be pale or blue from lack of oxygen
  • They may have a fever

Babies may also have difficulty feeding as they are struggling to breathe. According to The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, babies with bronchiolitis may be sick for 3-5 days, and should recover over the next 7-10 days. However, the cough can take an extra 2-4 weeks to clear.


Because Bronchitis is a viral infection, antibiotics do not help. However, there are ways to manage babies with bronchiolitis. Because your baby is struggling to breathe with this infection, it is important to give her smaller, more frequent feeds. She will tire quickly from feeding and it is important she does not become dehydrated. Monitor the amount of wet nappies she produces. If it is less than normal, see your GP. If you are concerned she is dehydrated, go to hospital. She may need extra fluids through a drip. If you are concerned your baby is struggling to breathe, or if she is going pale or blue, call an ambulance. Your baby may need extra oxygen and medical support in hospital.

 See Dr Engs Nutrition Protocols for Common Childhood infections. 

Reviewed by Dr Evelyn Lewin 25 February 2015 references
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This document has been developed and peer reviewed by a KIDS HEALTH Advisory Board Representative and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner.

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