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Bronchiolitis is the most common serious, acute viral infection in infants. Besides the diagnostic and treatment challenges, the appropriate time and the need of hospitalization remain unanswered. We wonder whether clinical predictors such as age less than 6 months, respiratory frequency more than 45 breaths per minute and oxygen saturation less than 95% could be of any help in assessing the severity of the disease and the need for admission.A prospective study was held in the emergency department from November 2000 to January 2002, in which each patient with positive nasopharyngeal respiratory syncytial virus was included. Other inclusion criteria were full-term birth, clinical signs of respiratory diseases, age between 2 weeks up to 24 months and no underlying illnesses such as bronchopulmonary dysplasia and chronic heart or lung diseases. The sensitivity, specificity and relative risk (RR) were calculated by statistical analyses.During the study period, 378 patients were included, 117 of whom were hospitalized (31%). Age less than 6 months (sensitivity 62%, specificity 72% and RR 2.68 ), respiratory frequency more than 45 breaths per minute (sensitivity 68%, specificity 82% and RR 4.57) and oxygen saturation less than 95% (sensitivity 68%, specificity 87% and RR 4.67) predicted the severity of the pulmonary disease and the need for admission. The cumulative analysis of the three parameters showed a specificity of 91% and a sensitivity of 86%, with a relative risk of 4.54 among those admitted into the hospital. Respiratory frequency more than 45 breaths per minute (sensitivity 76%, specificity 82% and RR 2.85) and oxygen saturation less than 95% (sensitivity 84%, specificity 86% and RR 2.65) were more significant than age less than 6 months (sensitivity 60%, specificity 70% and RR 3.70) in predicting the admission into the paediatric intensive care unit.Oxygen saturation less than 95%, respiratory frequency more than 45 breaths per minute and age less than 6 months in respiratory-distressed infants are important parameters to predict the need for admission and emphasize the severity of bronchiolitis.