Q: My niece was just admitted to the hospital for bronchiolitis. How is this different from bronchitis that adults get?
A: Thanks for your question. Bronchiolitis is a common childhood viral infection, falling somewhere between a cold and pneumonia.
Our respiratory tree extends from the nostrils all the way down to our alveoli, the small air sacks deep within our lungs. Air passes down 23 generations of branching airways to the alveoli, where gas exchange occurs across very thin membranes. Each generation of airway gets smaller as it goes further toward the alveoli. The large airways are called bronchi and the smaller ones are bronchioles.
Bronchi commonly get inflamed and infected in adults, resulting in mucus and coughing called bronchitis, and treated with antibiotics.