Bronchitis is an inflammation of the large breathing tubes (airways) that are called bronchi, which causes increased production of mucus and other changes.
In children, the most common cause of bronchitis is a virus, although it can be caused by bacteria. Acute bronchitis is usually a mild condition.
Acute bronchitis may follow the common cold or other viral infections in the upper respiratory tract. It may also occur in children with chronic sinusitis, allergies, or those with enlarged tonsils and adenoids. Pneumonia is a complication that can follow bronchitis.
Acute bronchitis is usually caused by viruses, and it may occur together with or following a cold or other respiratory infection. Germs such as viruses can be spread from person to person by coughing. They can also spread if you touch your mouth, nose, or eyes after coming into contact with respiratory fluids from an infected person.
Children being around tobacco smoke, chemical fumes, and other air pollutants for long periods of time puts them at risk for developing chronic bronchitis.
The following are the most common symptoms for acute bronchitis. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- Runny nose, usually before a cough starts
- Malaise (an overall body discomfort or not feeling well)
- Slight fever
- Back and muscle pain
- Sore throat
In many cases, antibiotic treatment is not necessary to treat acute bronchitis, since most of the infections are caused by viruses. Even children who have been coughing for longer than eight to 10 days usually do not need antibiotics. Treatment should include good hand hygiene and avoidance of secondhand tobacco smoke. Most of the treatment is supportive of the symptoms your child may have, and may include:
- Analgesics, such as acetaminophen (for fever and discomfort)
- Cough medicine
- Increased fluid intake
- Cool mist humidifier in the room may be helpful
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