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August 15, 2018 | Family Medicine
Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchi, the large breathing tubes in the lungs. Because it is most commonly caused by a virus instead of bacteria, bronchitis usually cannot be treated by antibiotics. Acute bronchitis occurs when symptoms develop and resolve quickly. Typically, acute bronchitis occurs after a respiratory infection, such as a cold. Acute bronchitis cases are usually mild, but the symptoms can be distressing.
Most children contract bronchitis after a cold or other viral infection. Physical and chemical agents, such as dusts, strong fumes or other allergens, can also cause acute bronchitis. Children with asthma or who are exposed to secondhand smoke have a higher risk of developing bronchitis. Allergies and chronic sinusitis may also precede bronchitis.
The most common symptom of bronchitis is a dry, nonproductive cough. Other symptoms that signify bronchitis include:
Each child experiences different symptoms, and many of these symptoms are common in other conditions. You should consult with your child’s doctor to get the right diagnosis. Symptoms can last up to two weeks, but the cough can continue for up to a month.
Physical symptoms can help your doctor diagnose bronchitis, but he or she might order tests to rule out other problems. Sputum and nasal discharge cultures, for example, can verify that it is a viral infection, not bacterial. Chest x-rays can also confirm a diagnosis.
Most cases of acute bronchitis get better without causing complications, but some cases can lead to pneumonia. Children who continually have bronchitis may have other breathing problems, such as asthma. Call your healthcare provider if the symptoms get worse or if your child has trouble breathing or a high fever.
Treatment for bronchitis involves alleviating symptoms and making the child comfortable. Avoid antihistamines, which dry up mucus secretions and make the cough worse. Home remedies include:
Avoid exposing your child to secondhand smoke and have everyone in the family use good hygiene techniques to avoid spreading the virus. When using cough medicine, use a suppressant at night to let the child sleep. During the day, you may want to use an expectorant to encourage mucus production.
A healthcare provider may have specific treatment based on your child’s own needs. Your doctor may order steroid drugs to reduce inflammation or bronchodilators to help open the airways, especially if the case is long-term or severe. Talk to your doctor about giving your child over-the-counter cough and cold medicine, especially if your child is younger than 6 years old.
“Acute Bronchitis in Children.” Cedars-Sinai. https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions—pediatrics/a/acute-bronchitis-in-children.html
“Bronchitis.” PubMed Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0022636/
“Acute Bronchitis in Children.” Stanford Children’s Health. http://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=acute-bronchitis-in-children-90-P02930
The Live Better Team
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.