Tests and diagnosisBy Mayo Clinic staff
Tests and X-rays are not usually needed to diagnose bronchiolitis. The doctor can usually identify the problem by observing your child and listening to his or her lungs with a stethoscope. It may take several visits to distinguish the condition from a cold or flu.
If your child is at greater risk of severe bronchiolitis, if symptoms are worsening or if another problem is suspected, your doctor may order tests, including:
- Chest X-ray. Your doctor may request a chest X-ray to look for signs of pneumonia.
- Mucus sample test. Your doctor may collect a sample of mucus from your child to test for the virus causing bronchiolitis. This is done using a swab or a suction catheter that's gently inserted into the nose.
- Blood tests. Occasionally, blood tests might be used to check your child's white blood cell count. An increase in white blood cells is usually a sign that your body is fighting an infection. A blood test can also determine whether the level of oxygen has decreased in your child's bloodstream. An alternative test for oxygen levels is an oximeter that fits over the finger. Oxygen is necessary to the functioning of the body's organs, including the brain.
Your doctor may also ask you about signs of dehydration, especially if your child has been refusing to drink or eat or has been vomiting. Signs of dehydration include sunken eyes, dry mouth and skin, sluggishness, and little or no urinary output.
- AskMayoExpert. Bronchiolitis. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2012.
- Piedra PA. Bronchiolitis in infants and children: Clinical features and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed March 13, 2013
- Piedra PA. Bronchiolitis in infants and children: Treatment; outcome; and prevention. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 13, 2013.
- Fitzgerald DA. Viral bronchiolitis for the clinician. Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health. 2011;47:160.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. Diagnosis and Management of Bronchiolitis. Pediatrics. 2006;118:1774.
- Pianosi PT. (Expert opinion.) Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 5, 2013.