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A Parent’s Guide To Bronchitis In Children

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes - large airways between the nose and the lungs. Toddlers with immature immune systems are most susceptible to bronchitis. Some toddlers have a speedy recovery while others may need weeks and months to recuperate. This guide will help parents better understand bronchitis in children.

Levels of Infection

There are 2 types of bronchitis– acute and chronic.

  • Acute bronchitis – A short-term infection that usually follows a cold or viral infection such as the flu which affects the nasal passages, sinuses and throat before entering the lungs.
  • Chronic bronchitis – A long-term infection that generates excess mucus in the lungs which causes chronic coughing until the infection is cleared out of the body. It can result to breathing difficulties making it a serious condition.

What causes bronchitis?

Bronchitis in children is normally caused by several viruses such as influenza A and B. Bacteria is another leading cause of bronchitis. This is a result of a sinus infection that has spread to the chest or by inhaling airborne bacteria such as cigarette and tobacco smoke, air pollution and chemical solvents. Allergies can also cause bronchitis in children. According to child health experts, toddlers who suffer from allergies or asthma are more likely to develop this infection due to the immune system’s sensitivity to substances such as dust, molds and pollen.

What are the symptoms?

Toddlers suffering from bronchitis will have one or more of these symptoms:

  • Coughing (starts out dry but later on produces greenish or yellowish mucus)
  • Low-grade fever (100 to 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Chills
  • Runny nose
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Body pains
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue

How is bronchitis diagnosed?

Your doctor will perform several tests to diagnose bronchitis. The pediatrician may base his finding on the physical symptoms your toddler may be experiencing. The doctor can order chest X-rays to verify the condition of the lungs. A device called pulse oximetry may also be used to evaluate the amount of oxygen that is in your toddler’s blood.

How is bronchitis treated?

Antibiotics will be given to your toddler if bronchitis is caused by a bacterial infection. The doctor might also recommend running a cool-mist humidifier in your toddler’s bedroom to moisten the air and relieve your child’s breathing. Saline drops may also be used to ease congestion.

It is also very important that your toddler drinks plenty of fluids (about 8 to 10 glasses per day) to prevent dehydration and keep his airway free of irritants. Plenty of rest is also necessary. Elevate his head with a pillow while your toddler is sleeping to make breathing easier for him.

Giving your toddler a correct dose of children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen can also help reduce his fever and discomfort. The doctor may also recommend cough medicine with expectorant to clear out mucus. Or if your toddler has asthma, a bronchodilator may be given to open up his airways.

Bronchitis is very common in children. But, you can protect your toddler from this disease by making sure he washes his hands regularly, maintains a well-balanced diet, gets adequate sleep and limits contact with sick people and people who smoke.

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November 2017
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