Know How to React When Your Child Has Bronchitis

You develop bronchitis when the large air passages to the lungs become infected or inflamed. It is common for children to develop bronchitis after having a sore throat, cold, or sinus infection. The virus causing a sore throat or flu can easily spread to the air passages and result in inflammation. Once infected, the air passages become inflamed or swollen – it may be partly blocked with mucus, which can make breathing very difficult. Bronchitis in children is usually the result of viral infections, but allergies, bacterial infections, and irritants can also cause bronchitis. Let's find out more about it.

How to Tell If Your Child Has Bronchitis

If your child has developed bronchitis, you may experience certain symptoms. For instance:

  • Your child will have the usual signs of a cold, such as a sore throat, runny nose, and mild fever.
  • Your child will develop a cough after some time – it is usually dry in the beginning but turns into a "barking cough" after a few days.
  • Your child may complain of shortness of breath and have wheezing as well. Keep in mind that in case of severe wheezing and shortness of breath, the underlying cause is usually asthma not bronchitis.

Most children take 5-10 days to recover completely from a bronchitis attack, but the problem can become chronic due to allergies or other problems in the lungs.

How Can You Help?

Bronchitis in children is usually due to viral infections, but it could be also due to a bacterial infection that requires antibiotics. Your doctor will check the symptoms and decide if your child should take antibiotics or not. In case of a viral infection, bronchitis usually improves in a week without medication. However, you can take the following steps to help make your child feel more comfortable:

  • Be sure to give your child plenty of water and fluids. They should be getting at least 10 glasses of fluids a day because this helps prevent dehydration and relieve congestion at the same time.
  • Get a cool-mist humidifier and have it installed in your child's room. This is important if you live in a rather dry climate. Moisture in the air will help make breathing easier.
  • Make use of saline nasal drops to relieve congestion. You can get these OTC drops with ease. Just put a couple of drops in your child's nostril and then get it out using a bulb syringe.
  • Ensure that your child is getting plenty of rest. Your body can fight viral infections on its own but you need to give it enough time to repair itself. Therefore, it is important to ensure that your child is not participating in physically demanding activities for a week or so.
  • Do whatever you can to improve the quality of air in your home. Dust, cold weather, and smoke can aggravate symptoms of bronchitis in children, so you should provide them with a warm, clean, and smoke-free environment. Do not smoke when your child is around because nicotine and other chemicals can further irritate your child's airway passages and delay recovery.
  • You can get children's ibuprofen or acetaminophen and give it to your child to help relieve fever and pain. Do not give aspirin to your young kids because it can cause serious side effects.
  • Understand that coughing is your body's way to get rid of mucus, so it is not a good idea to give your child a cough suppressant. Alternatively, you can give them some honey to help relieve throat pain. Never give honey to your child who is younger than 1.

When to See a Doctor

Bronchitis in children usually requires no medical intervention, but it is sometimes necessary to seek medical help. For instance, you should seek medical care if:

  • Your child finds it difficult to breathe or wheezes heavily.
  • Your child struggles to breathe – there will be flaring of the nose as they breathe.
  • Your child has trouble eating talking.
  • Your child has a headache, fever, or a stiff neck.
  • Your child's nails or lips have turned blue or gray.
  • Your child is confused or dizzy.
  • Your child finds it extremely difficult to wake up.
  • Your child shows any signs of dehydration, like cracked lips, crying with no tears, etc.

Also talk to your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child's have a high fever that comes and goes.
  • Your child has severe cough that persists for more than 3 weeks.
  • Your child has developed some new symptoms.
  • You suspect something wrong with your child or have questions about their condition.
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