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've had a runny nose, cough or high temperature (fever) and for how long.

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

If your child hasn't been feeding very well or has been vomiting, your GP may also look for signs of dehydration, which 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

Your GP may recommend that your child is admitted to hospital if they aren't feeding properly and are dehydrated, or they're having problems breathing.

Further tests

Further tests for bronchiolitis aren't usually necessary. However, as some conditions cause similar symptoms to bronchiolitis, such as cystic fibrosis and asthma, tests may be needed.

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

These tests might include:

  • a mucus sample test  a sample of mucus from your child's nose will be tested to identify the virus causing their bronchiolitis
  • urine or blood tests
  • a pulse oximeter test  a small electronic device is clipped to your child's finger or toe to measure the oxygen in their blood

Page last reviewed: 10/09/2015

Next review due: 10/09/2017