Bronchitis in Children

April 12, 2021
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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As a parent or guardian of a child, it can feel overwhelming if your little one is having breathing difficulties. If you’re noticing unusual signs and symptoms, you may be wondering what you can do to resolve them. How do you know if it’s bronchitis? And if it is, what’s the best form of treatment?

Bronchitis in Children

When a person breathes, the oxygen enters the body through the nose, down into the trachea (the windpipe), and into the bronchial tubes — which are located inside the lungs. Bronchitis occurs when the bronchial tubes become inflamed. There are several factors that could cause this inflammation, including secondhand smoke, air pollution, or an underlying virus, such as those that cause the flu or the common cold.

When a child has bronchitis, their bronchial tubes swell and create significantly more mucus than usual. As a result, there’s less space for air to flow, making it difficult for your child to breathe easily.

Bronchitis can be acute (short-term) or chronic (recurring). When a child has acute bronchitis, the condition tends to be mild. The most common cause for acute bronchitis is a viral infection. However, if a child already suffers from asthma, allergies, chronic sinusitis, or is regularly exposed to secondhand smoke, they may develop chronic bronchitis.

Symptoms of Bronchitis in Children

The symptoms of bronchitis in children are hard to miss. They may range from mild to severe, and include the following:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Chest congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing that brings up yellow or green mucus
  • Whistling sound when inhaling
  • Slight fever
  • Chills
  • Body aches

While these symptoms can eventually go away on their own with rest and hydration, seek medical care for your child if they develop a fever that’s higher than 100.4, if the condition is preventing them from sleeping, or if it lasts more than three weeks. Left untreated, bronchitis could lead to complications, such as pneumonia or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Diagnosis of Bronchitis in Children

If you suspect your child may have bronchitis — or any other upper respiratory tract infection — their pediatrician will review their medical history with you and conduct a physical exam. In addition, the pediatrician may want to conduct additional testing to confirm the diagnosis. These include:

1. X-Rays

While your child’s pediatrician may be able to diagnose bronchitis based on your child’s symptoms and medical history, they may also order chest x-rays. This ensures they get a better look at your child’s lungs and rule out more serious conditions, such as pneumonia.

2. Pulse Oximetry

An oximeter is a small instrument designed to measure the amount of oxygen in the blood. The pediatrician will put a clip with a sensor on your child’s finger to get the reading. The procedure is painless and relatively quick.

3. Sputum Samples

Your child’s doctor may also request a sample of your child’s nasal discharge or coughed-up mucus. This is done to examine the fluids at a laboratory to identify the type of bacteria that caused the infection.

Treatment of Bronchitis in Children

Once bronchitis is diagnosed, the pediatrician will likely recommend specific over-the-counter cough medicines and expectorants. They will also advise your child to drink water throughout the day to thin out the mucus, and to get plenty of rest.

Another option to loosen up excess mucus includes installing a humidifier in your child’s room while they sleep — or steam therapy by letting hot water from the shower run, while the bathroom door is closed. If the bronchitis was caused by bacteria, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics. If your child also has asthma or is a chronic allergy sufferer, they may also require an inhaler.

Caring for a Child With Bronchitis

Caring for a child with bronchitis will depend on the severity, and may include a care plan that your pediatrician has prescribed. Usually, the goal is to ease the symptoms of bronchitis, and plenty of rest and fluids is highly recommended. Continue to monitor your child’s symptoms, which could last up to three weeks. If not prescribed by your pediatrician, talk to them before giving any over-the-counter medication. Over-the-counter cough and cold medicine can be harmful to younger children, and antihistamines can dry up the mucus and make the cough worse.

Also, to lower the chances of your child getting bronchitis again, you can teach them good habits regarding frequent hand washing, and covering their nose or mouth when coughing or sneezing.

Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care in Florida

It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a loved one. That’s why our team of skilled professionals at Care Options for Kids is here to help.

Our home health care services offer support in the comfort of your home. We refer loving and competent nurses to provide customized care for families — from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision. Contact us directly to speak with a home health care professional or request a free in-home assessment. Together we can determine the best plan of action to keep your loved ones happy and healthy.

If you or a loved one are considering pediatric home health care services in Florida, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.