Viral illness with wheezing during infancy is associated with the inception of childhood asthma. Small airway dysfunction is a component of childhood asthma, but little is known about how viral illness at an early age may affect the structure and function of small airways. We used a well-characterized rat model of postbronchiolitis chronic airway dysfunction to address how postinfectious small airway lesions affect airway physiological function and if the structure/function correlates persist into maturity. Brown Norway rats were sham- or virus inoculated at 3 to 4 weeks of age and allowed to recover from the acute illness. At 3 to 14 months of age, physiology (respiratory system resistance, Newtonian resistance, tissue damping, and static lung volumes) was assessed in anesthetized, intubated rats. Serial lung sections revealed lesions in the terminal bronchioles that reduced luminal area and interrupted further branching, affecting 26% (range, 13-39%) of the small airways at 3 months of age and 22% (range, 6-40%) at 12 to 14 months of age. At 3 months of age (n = 29 virus; n = 7 sham), small airway lesions correlated with tissue damping (rs = 0.69) but not with Newtonian resistance (rs = 0.23), and Newtonian resistance was not elevated compared with control rats, indicating that distal airways were primarily responsible for the airflow obstruction. Older rats (n = 7 virus; n = 6 sham) had persistent small airway dysfunction and significantly increased Newtonian resistance in the postbronchiolitis group. We conclude that viral airway injury at an early age may induce small airway lesions that are associated quantitatively with small airway physiological dysfunction early on and that these defects persist into maturity.