Bronchiolitis Obliterans: Definition & Symptoms

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

Bronchiolitis obliterans is an inflammatory lung condition that causes blockages in the lungs. Continue reading this lesson for more detailed information about the definition and symptoms of bronchiolitis obliterans.

Trouble by the Pool

Lenny is a 32-year-old who, for the past 15 years, has been cleaning pools for a living. Part of this job involves adding chlorine to pools to help sanitize the pool and keep them free of infectious germs. However, when Lenny works with chlorine, he is not very careful and he often spills the chlorine on his truck, on the pool decks, and sometimes on his skin and clothes. He also does not store the chlorine containers properly, often leaving the containers of chlorine open, allowing the fumes to escape.

Recently, Lenny has been feeling pretty sick with a severe wheeze and dry cough. This severe wheeze and cough has made his work very difficult, so he decided to go to the hospital to see if he could get something to relieve his symptoms. While in the hospital, Lenny was put through several tests, including a CT scan of his lungs. After reviewing the results, the doctor told Lenny that he had bronchiolitis obliterans, most likely caused by inhaling too many fumes of the chlorine he uses while cleaning pools.

What is Bronchiolitis Obliterans?

Bronchiolitis obliterans a is lung condition that affects the bronchioles, which are the very small passageways in the lungs. In bronchiolitis obliterans, the bronchioles become inflammed. This inflammation can then scar the inner linings of the bronchiole tubes, eventually causing these tubes to become blocked.

There are several different causes of bronchiolitis obliterans, including the inhalation of various toxic fumes. The fumes of chlorine (like Lenny), ammonia, sulfur dioxide, welding fumes, or diacetyl, which is used in aritificial butter flavorings, have all been shown to cause bronchiolitis obliterans. This condition can also be caused by wide-spread viral infections such as HIV and respiratory infections. Infections from organ transplants and rheumatoid arthritis are also associated with bronchiolitis obliterans.

Bronchiolitis obliterans is a lung condition that involves inflammation of the bronchioles, which are very small passageways in the lungs.


Since bronchiolitis obliterans involves the inflammation and blockage of the bronchioles, most of the symptoms of this condition involve impaired respiration or breathing. These symptoms include:

  • Wheezing
  • Dry coughs
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue

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