Bronchiolitis - Diagnosing bronchiolitis

Contact your GP if your child has symptoms of bronchiolitis. A diagnosis is usually based on the symptoms and an examination of your child's breathing.

Your GP will ask about your child's symptoms – for example, whether they have had a runny nose, cough or high temperature (fever).

They will also listen to your child's breathing using a stethoscope. Your GP will listen for any crackling or high-pitched wheezing as your child breathes in and out.

If your child has not been feeding very well or has been vomiting, your GP may also look for signs of dehydration to determine whether the water content of their body is reduced.

Signs of dehydration include:

  • a dipped fontanelle (the soft spot on the top of the head) in babies
  • dry mouth and skin
  • drowsiness
  • producing little or no urine

Further tests

Further tests for bronchiolitis are not usually necessary. However, some conditions cause similar symptoms to bronchiolitis, such as cystic fibrosis and asthma.

If it is not clear what is causing your child's symptoms or your child has signs of severe bronchiolitis, your GP may recommend further tests in hospital to confirm the diagnosis.

These tests might include:

  • a mucus sample test – a swab is used to collect a sample of mucus from your child's nose, which is tested to identify virus causing your child's bronchiolitis
  • urine or blood tests
  • a pulse oximeter test – this small electronic device is clipped to your child's finger or toe to measure the oxygen in your child's blood
  • a chest X-ray – this can be used to check for any abnormalities in the lungs, or other conditions such as pneumonia

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