Background: Viral bronchiolitis is a common condition and a leading cause of hospitalization in young children.
Objective: This article provides readers with an update on the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of viral bronchiolitis, primarily due to RSV.
Methods: A PubMed search was conducted in December 2021 in Clinical Queries using the key terms "acute bronchiolitis" OR “respiratory syncytial virus infection”. The search included clinical trials, randomized controlled trials, case control studies, cohort studies, meta-analyses, observational studies, clinical guidelines, case reports, case series, and reviews. The search was restricted to children and English literature. The information retrieved from the above search was used in the compilation of this article.
Results: Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most common viral bronchiolitis in young children. Other viruses such as human rhinovirus and coronavirus could be etiological agents. Diagnosis is based on clinical manifestation. Viral testing is useful only for cohort and quarantine purposes. Cochrane evidence-based reviews have been performed on most treatment modalities for RSV and viral bronchiolitis. Treatment for viral bronchiolitis is mainly symptomatic support. Beta-agonists are frequently used despite the lack of evidence that they reduce hospital admissions or length of stay. Nebulized racemic epinephrine, hypertonic saline and corticosteroids are generally not effective. Passive immunoprophylaxis with a monoclonal antibody against RSV, when given intramuscularly and monthly during winter, is effective in preventing severe RSV bronchiolitis in high-risk children who are born prematurely and in children under 2 years with chronic lung disease or hemodynamically significant congenital heart disease. Vaccines for RSV bronchiolitis are being developed. Children with viral bronchiolitis in early life are at increased risk of developing asthma later in childhood.
Conclusion: Viral bronchiolitis is common. No current pharmacologic treatment or novel therapy has been proven to improve outcomes compared to supportive treatment. Viral bronchiolitis in early life predisposes asthma development later in childhood.
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