- Acute Bronchitis in Children
- What is acute bronchitis in children?
- What causes acute bronchitis in a child?
- Which children are at risk for acute bronchitis?
- What are the symptoms of acute bronchitis in a child?
- How is acute bronchitis diagnosed in a child?
- How is acute bronchitis treated in a child?
- What are possible complications of acute bronchitis in a child?
- How can I help prevent acute bronchitis in my child?
- When should I call my child’s healthcare provider?
- Key points about acute bronchitis in children
- Next steps
- Causes of bronchitis
- Bronchitis symptoms
- When to see your GP about bronchitis symptoms
- Tests for bronchitis
- Bronchitis treatment
- Bronchitis in children: Home remedies for kids
- You can help your child beat bronchitis
- What is bronchitis?
- How does bronchitis happen?
- What are the symptoms of acute bronchitis?
- Effective home remedies for bronchitis in children.
- Is it bronchitis or something else?
- What is acute bronchitis?
- What causes or increases my child’s risk for acute bronchitis?
- What are the signs and symptoms of acute bronchitis?
- How is acute bronchitis diagnosed?
- How is acute bronchitis treated?
- How can I care for my child when he has acute bronchitis?
- When should I seek immediate care?
- When should I contact my child’s healthcare provider?
- Further information
- Learn more about Acute Bronchitis in Children
- How do I spot the symptoms?
- How is bronchiolitis diagnosed?
- How can bronchiolitis be treated at home?
- Why you might need to come to hospital
- When would my child be admitted to the Intensive Care or High Dependency Units?
- What treatment will they receive in the intensive care/high dependency unit?
- What happens after an intensive care stay?
- What’s the outlook like for children who’ve had bronchiolitis?
- Acute Bronchitis
- What causes acute bronchitis?
- How is acute bronchitis diagnosed and treated?
Acute Bronchitis in Children
What is acute bronchitis in children?
Bronchitis is an inflammation of the large breathing tubes (bronchi) in the lungs. The illness can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). Acute bronchitis means that the symptoms often develop quickly and don’t last long. Most cases are mild.
What causes acute bronchitis in a child?
Acute bronchitis is most often caused by a viral infection. It may also be caused by bacteria or things such as dust, allergens, strong fumes, or tobacco smoke.
In children, the most common cause of acute bronchitis is a virus. The illness may develop after a cold or other viral infection in the nose, mouth, or throat (upper respiratory tract). Such illnesses can spread easily from direct contact with a person who is sick.
Which children are at risk for acute bronchitis?
Children who have a higher chance of developing acute bronchitis are those who have:
Enlarged tonsils and adenoids
Exposure to secondhand smoke
What are the symptoms of acute bronchitis in a child?
These are the most common symptoms:
Dry or mucus-filled cough
Vomiting or gagging
Runny nose, often before a cough starts
Chest congestion or pain
An overall body discomfort or not feeling well
Back and muscle pain
These symptoms often last 7 to 14 days. But the cough may continue for 3 to 4 weeks. These symptoms may look like other health problems. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
How is acute bronchitis diagnosed in a child?
Your child’s healthcare provider can often diagnose acute bronchitis with a health history and physical exam. In some cases, your child may need tests to rule out other health problems, such as pneumonia or asthma. These tests may include:
Chest X-rays. This test makes images of internal tissues, bones, and organs.
Pulse oximetry. An oximeter is a small device that measures the amount of oxygen in the blood. For this test, the healthcare provider puts a small sensor (like a clip) on your child’s finger or toe. When the device is on, a small red light can be seen in the sensor. The sensor is painless and the red light does not get hot.
Sputum and nasal discharge samples. These tests can find the germ causing an infection.
How is acute bronchitis treated in a child?
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
In nearly all cases, antibiotics should not be used to treat acute bronchitis. That’s because most of the infections are caused by viruses. Even children who have been coughing for longer than 8 to 10 days often don’t need antibiotics.
The goal of treatment is to help ease symptoms. Treatment may include:
Plenty of rest
Acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever and mild pain
Cough medicine for children over 4 years old
Cool-mist humidifier in your child’s room
Talk with your child’s healthcare provider before giving over-the-counter cough and cold medicine to your child. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend giving these medicines to children younger than 4 years old because they may cause harmful side effects. For children between ages 4 and 6, only use over-the-counter products when recommended by your child’s healthcare provider. In most cases, also don’t give antihistamines. They can dry up the secretions. That can make the cough worse.
Don’t give aspirin or medicine that contains aspirin to a child younger than age 19 unless directed by your child’s provider. Taking aspirin can put your child at risk for Reye syndrome. This is a rare but very serious disorder. It most often affects the brain and the liver.
What are possible complications of acute bronchitis in a child?
Most children who have acute bronchitis will get better without any problems. But the illness can lead to pneumonia.
How can I help prevent acute bronchitis in my child?
You can help prevent acute bronchitis by stopping the spread of viruses that may lead to it. Take these steps:
Teach your child to cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
Make sure your child washes his or her hands often.
Check that your child is up-to-date on all vaccines, including the yearly flu shot.
When should I call my child’s healthcare provider?
Call your child’s healthcare provider right away if your child’s symptoms get worse, if new symptoms develop, or if he or she has:
A high fever
Key points about acute bronchitis in children
Bronchitis is an inflammation of the large breathing tubes (bronchi) in the lungs. Acute bronchitis means that the symptoms often develop quickly and don’t last long.
In children, the most common cause of acute bronchitis is a virus.
A cough, fever, runny nose, and body aches are common symptoms.
Treatment is aimed at easing symptoms. It may include plenty of rest and fluids. Medicines for fever or cough may also help.
Antibiotics are not needed, unless the cause is a bacterial infection.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.
Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are.
Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.
Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.
Causes of bronchitis
Bronchitis is when the large airway passages that go to the lungs become inflamed, usually because of a viral infection, or more rarely a bacterial infection.
Coughing is the main symptom of bronchitis. Your child’s cough might sound dry or wet.
If your child has bronchitis and his upper airways are also affected, he might have a runny nose and sore throat as well as a cough. He might have a mild fever too. He might be a bit short of breath and have some wheezing.
If your child is wheezing a lot and is short of breath, it could be asthma or bronchiolitis. Severe coughing and wheezing in children is more likely to be caused by asthma than by bronchitis. If your child has a high fever and difficulty breathing, it might be pneumonia.
Your GP will work out what’s causing your child’s symptoms.
Bronchitis is more common in adults, but it can occur in children.
If the cough started suddenly and you suspect your child might be choking on something, you should start choking first aid and seek immediate medical attention.
When to see your GP about bronchitis symptoms
You should take your child to see your GP if your child:
- has had asthma attacks in the past
- has a high fever
- has a cough that isn’t settling down after 7-10 days
- has a wheeze or is short of breath
- has blood in her mucus
- is having trouble breathing or is breathing heavily.
Tests for bronchitis
Your GP can tell whether your child is likely to have bronchitis by asking you questions about your child’s symptoms and by examining your child.
The GP might also refer your child for a chest X-ray if the cough doesn’t go away.
Bronchitis usually takes 1-2 weeks to sort itself out, and generally doesn’t cause any complications.
If your child’s coughing and wheezing don’t go away, your doctor might advise some short-term use of anti-asthma medication.
If your doctor thinks a bacterial infection is causing the bronchitis or if the cough won’t go away, the doctor might prescribe antibiotics. Antibiotics aren’t often prescribed, however, because bronchitis is usually caused by a virus, and antibiotics won’t work for viruses.
Cough medicines usually don’t help a bronchitis cough. Honey might reduce the severity and duration of a bronchitis cough, but you shouldn’t give honey to children aged under 12 months because of the risk of infant botulism, a rare but serious type of food poisoning.
Bronchitis in children: Home remedies for kids
You can help your child beat bronchitis
With cold and flu season underway, it’s possible your child could come down with a case of bronchitis. And while the symptoms sometimes sound awful – wheezing and a deep, nagging cough that produces mucus – bronchitis in children is typically a mild condition. Home remedies for bronchitis in children can be very effective.
What is bronchitis?
Bronchitis is an inflammation of the large breathing tubes called airways or bronchi. The most common type of bronchitis in children is acute bronchitis.
How does bronchitis happen?
Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a virus, with symptoms commonly appearing after a common cold. Other causes include allergies, irritants like dust or cigarette smoke, and can be associated with asthma. Bronchitis in children can come on quickly after a cold, but is usually mild typically lasting between 1-3 weeks.
What are the symptoms of acute bronchitis?
Symptoms can vary, but usual symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Low-grade fever
- Feeling unwell
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
At first, cough can be dry, but eventually results in a cough that produces greenish or yellowish mucus. Mucus further blocks the airway, making it difficult for your child to breathe. Bronchitis in children can come on quickly after a cold and can last a few weeks.
Effective home remedies for bronchitis in children.
The cough that comes with bronchitis may sound bad, but coughing is the natural way to clear the lungs. Most cases will improve on their own. You can effectively soothe the symptoms of bronchitis in children with home remedies like these:
- Increase fluids. Increasing fluid intake can help sooth a sore throat and make the mucus in your child’s lungs easier to cough up. Try warm lemonade, soup, and warm water with lemon and honey.
- Rest in an upright position. Plenty of rest will help your child regain his or her health. But congestion may make it difficult for him or her to sleep. Try elevating the head of the bed by placing a few pillows under the top of the mattress to help your child rest more easily.
- Warm compresses for the chest. Bronchitis can make your child’s chest feel heavy and the bronchitis cough can hurt. Provide warm compresses to your child’s chest to make him or her feel better.
- Add some humidity. A steamy bath or shower may help ease your child’s breathing. And a cool mist humidifier in his or her room overnight can also help.
- Eliminate irritants. Smoking should never be done around any child. Smoke can especially irritate already sore lungs in your child and can also delay the healing process. In addition, make sure your child is not in an environment where he or she is inhaling dust, pollen or chemicals.
- Give over-the-counter medications with care. Children over the age of 6 may need a dose of over-the-counter medication like acetaminophen for pain or fever. Follow directions carefully. Always contact your child’s doctor before giving any over-the-counter medication to a child younger than 6.
Is it bronchitis or something else?
A bronchitis cough can sometimes be a symptom of something more serious (like pneumonia). If your child has any of the following symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor as quickly as possible to rule out any other condition:
- A persistent fever over 100 degrees for a week
- Chest pain and significant shortness of breath
- Coughing or wheezing for longer than four weeks
- Your child coughs up bloody mucus
- Significant weakness that does not improve
- If your child has asthma and gets bronchitis
Learn more about common causes of coughs in children and about the Children’s Health pulmonology programs and services.
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Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Sep 24, 2019.
- Care Notes
What is acute bronchitis?
Acute bronchitis is swelling and irritation in the airways of your child’s lungs. This irritation may cause him to cough or have trouble breathing. Bronchitis is often called a chest cold. Acute bronchitis lasts about 2 to 3 weeks.
What causes or increases my child’s risk for acute bronchitis?
Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a viral infection such as a cold. It can also be caused by a bacterial infection. Exposure to polluted air or cigarette smoke can increase your child’s risk for acute bronchitis. His risk may also be increased if he has medical conditions such as asthma or allergies. Babies who are premature (born too early) also have a higher risk for bronchitis.
What are the signs and symptoms of acute bronchitis?
- Dry cough or cough with mucus that may be clear, yellow, or green
- Chest tightness or pain while coughing or taking a deep breath
- Fever, body aches, and chills
- Sore throat and runny or stuffy nose
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
How is acute bronchitis diagnosed?
Your child’s healthcare provider will ask about your child’s signs and symptoms. Tell him about other medical conditions your child may have. Your child’s healthcare provider will examine your child and listen to his lungs. He may also take a chest x-ray to look for signs of infection such as pneumonia.
How is acute bronchitis treated?
- NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor’s order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him or her. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child’s healthcare provider.
- Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor’s order. Ask how much your child should take and how often he should take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
- Cough medicine helps loosen mucus in your child’s lungs and makes it easier to cough up. Do not give cold or cough medicines to children under 6 years of age. Ask your healthcare provider if you can give cough medicine to your child.
- An inhaler gives medicine in a mist form so that your child can breathe it into his lungs. Your child’s healthcare provider may give him one or more inhalers to help him breathe easier and cough less. Ask your child’s healthcare provider to show you or your child how to use his inhaler correctly.
How can I care for my child when he has acute bronchitis?
- Have your child rest. Rest will help his body get better.
- Clear mucus from your baby’s nose. Use a bulb syringe to remove mucus from your baby’s nose. Squeeze the bulb and put the tip into one of your baby’s nostrils. Gently close the other nostril with your finger. Slowly release the bulb to suck up the mucus. Empty the bulb syringe onto a tissue. Repeat the steps if needed. Do the same thing in the other nostril. Make sure your baby’s nose is clear before he feeds or sleeps. The healthcare provider may recommend you put saline drops into your baby’s nose if the mucus is very thick.
- Have your child drink liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid your child should drink each day and which liquids are best for him. Liquids help to keep your child’s air passages moist and make it easier for him to cough up mucus. If you are breastfeeding or feeding your child formula, continue to do so. Your baby may not feel like drinking his regular amounts with each feeding. Feed him smaller amounts of breast milk or formula more often if he is drinking less at each feeding.
- Use a cool-mist humidifier. This will add moisture to the air and help your child breathe easier.
- Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around your child. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can irritate your child’s airway and cause lung damage over time. Ask the healthcare provider for information if you or your older child currently smokes and needs help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to the healthcare provider before you or your child uses these products.
When should I seek immediate care?
- Your child’s breathing problems get worse, or he wheezes with every breath.
- Your child is struggling to breathe. The signs may include:
- Skin between the ribs or around his neck being sucked in with each breath (retractions)
- Flaring (widening) of his nose when he breathes
- Trouble talking or eating
- Your child has a fever, headache, and a stiff neck.
- Your child’s lips or nails turn gray or blue.
- Your child is dizzy, confused, faints, or is much harder to wake up than usual.
- Your child has signs of dehydration such as crying without tears, a dry mouth or cracked lips. He may also urinate less or his urine may be darker than normal.
When should I contact my child’s healthcare provider?
- Your child’s fever goes away and then returns.
- Your child’s cough lasts longer than 3 weeks or gets worse.
- Your child has new symptoms or his symptoms get worse.
- You have any questions or concerns about your child’s condition or care.
You have the right to help plan your child’s care. Learn about your child’s health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child’s healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.
Learn more about Acute Bronchitis in Children
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- Acute Bronchitis
- Chronic Bronchitis
- Reactive Airways Disease
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It starts as a runny nose and a slight cough — and quickly makes babies miserable.
Bronchiolitis is a very common illness in babies during the fall, winter, and early spring. It mostly affects children under the age of two, but is most common in babies three to six months old. While the majority of babies who get it do just fine, some can get very sick. So it’s important that parents of infants know what bronchiolitis is, what to watch for, and what to do.
Ultimately, bronchiolitis is just a really bad cold. There are a few different viruses that can cause it. The most common one is Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV. As opposed to most colds that stay in the upper part of the respiratory tract (the nose and throat), bronchiolitis gets down into the lungs. It affects the small airways called the bronchioles (hence the name bronchiolitis) and can cause them to be irritated and swollen. When this happens, it can lead to wheezing and trouble breathing.
For most babies, this is just a bad cough that lasts for a week or so and then gets better. But some babies can get very ill, either from the swelling of the airways, exhaustion from all the coughing, or complications like pneumonia or dehydration. That’s why parents need to be watchful for any of the following, and call the doctor if they happen:
- fever of 102º F or higher (or a fever of 100.4º F or more in a baby less than three months old), or a lower fever that lasts more than two to three days
- rapid or forceful breathing (watch for sucking in of the muscles of the chest)
- a grunting noise or flaring of the nostrils with breathing
- skin that looks pale or bluish (or lips that look bluish)
- refusal or inability to drink (or taking in much less than usual)
- no wet diapers for six hours or more
- sleepiness or irritability that is much more pronounced than usual.
The treatment for bronchiolitis is what we call “supportive,” meaning that we treat the symptoms. There is no good medicine to treat the virus itself. Here’s what’s helpful:
- giving plenty of fluids (breast milk or formula is fine)
- running a cool mist humidifier
- using a bulb syringe to clear the nose (it works better if you use saline nose drops first)
- when your baby is awake and supervised, keeping his head elevated can be helpful; you should never use a pillow, but you can take a baby blanket and put it under the head of the crib mattress (do not put the blanket in the crib)
- sitting in a steamy bathroom to loosen secretions.
Sometimes symptoms can linger for weeks. If your baby has been sick for more than a week it’s a good idea to check in with the doctor, just to be on the safe side. Some babies will go on to have asthma, although it’s not clear if it’s the bronchiolitis that causes the asthma, or whether babies that are prone to asthma have a tougher time with bronchiolitis.
For some babies that are at very high risk, such as those with lung or heart disease or problems with the immune system, we give monthly shots to prevent RSV infection. Check with your doctor if your child has one of these problems. For most babies, the best prevention is the simplest: wash your hands, all the time, and do your best to stay away from sick people.
For more information, check out the websites of the National Library of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While bronchiolitis can be caused by various viruses, the most common cause is respiratory syncytial virus – or RSV for short – which, in older children and adults, is the same virus that leads to the ‘common cold’. It usually occurs during our winter months (October to March).
Viruses causing coughs, colds and bronchiolitis are easy to catch and spread when droplets of them are breathed, sneezed or coughed out, or picked up from the skin or hard surfaces, such as door handles and toys.
How do I spot the symptoms?
Similar to a common cold, symptoms include a blocked or runny nose, a cough and a mildly raised temperature. In this case, the bronchioles – smaller breathing tubes that branch off the main passageway to the lungs – produce more mucus than usual and become swollen, leading to a cough and a runny nose.
If the tubes are clogged up with mucus, this may cause breathing problems, meaning your baby is breathing fast and drawing in their muscles around the rib cage. In rare cases, young babies with bronchiolitis may stop breathing for brief periods (this is called apnoea).
The illness usually starts with a mild runny nose or cough, develops over three to five days and then gradually gets better, usually lasting about 10 to 14 days.
How is bronchiolitis diagnosed?
Unless your child is very young or has other medical conditions, there’s no need for extra medical advice. However, if your child is struggling to breathe, is difficult to wake or has a blue or pale tinge to their skin, lips or nails, call for medical advice immediately.
You’ll be asked what the symptoms are and when they started, and to describe your child’s breathing. For example, is there a wet sounding or chesty cough, runny nose, difficulty breathing and apnoea?
If your child is admitted to hospital, we will usually take a mucus sample from their nose to find out which virus is causing the symptoms. They may also measure the amount of oxygen in the child’s blood (this is called ‘oxygen saturation’), by putting a small probe resembling a sticky plaster around the child’s hand or foot. The result is explained as a percentage. If the number is low (below 92 per cent), this means there isn’t enough oxygen in the blood to travel to the body’s tissues and organs and treatment is needed.
How can bronchiolitis be treated at home?
Bronchiolitis is caused by a virus, which means antibiotics won’t be effective. Here are some tips on how you can help your child feel a little better: • keep them upright as much as possible, to make breathing and feeding easier • make sure they’re in a safe position and unable to fall. For example, a car seat is useful for when they are awake • tilt the cot’s head upwards to make breathing easier. Try this by raising the cot legs on blocks or putting a pillow under the mattress, although remember never put a pillow or cushion under their head, as this is unsafe • give your child small amounts of fluid frequently to stop dehydration. If they’re drinking around half of their normal fluid intake, they should be safe to stay at home, but if they’re drinking less than this, take them to a doctor • keep an eye on how many wet nappies they have, as fewer of these can be a sign of dehydration • vapour rubs and humidifiers may help and you can also get saline (salt water) drops from a pharmacist to put inside their nostrils, which help to keep the nose clear for breathing and feeding.
Why you might need to come to hospital
Your child may need hospital treatment for bronchiolitis if they are under three months old; were born with a heart defect; have lung disease; were born prematurely (too soon); or have a weakened immune system – either because of a problem they were born with (congenital) or because of medicine they are taking for another problem.
However, many children requiring an intensive care admission won’t fall into these groups.
Around two in 100 infants with bronchiolitis will need to spend some time in hospital, either because they need oxygen treatment to keep their oxygen saturations above 92 per cent, or if they can’t feed from the breast or a bottle because of a blocked nose or difficulty breathing.
There are two treatments commonly used for bronchiolitis:
Nasal cannula oxygen
In this case, oxygen is delivered through a set of short plastic tubes (prongs) placed inside the nostrils. They can also be useful for nurses to draw out mucus from inside the nostrils.
If your child is in hospital because they’re not feeding well, a plastic feeding tube may be placed into their mouth or nose, passing down the oesophagus (foodpipe) into the stomach so they can be given their usual milk feeds. If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll be asked to express milk to put down the tube, or normal formula feeds can be used.
On rare occasions, if your child has severe difficulty in breathing or is vomiting, we may decide to stop giving feeds for a short period and give fluids by intravenous drip.
After this care, your baby is likely to recover from the virus and, once their oxygen saturations reach above 92 per cent without additional oxygen, and take bottle or breast feeds, you may take them home to recover. The wet sounding cough can continue for many weeks or months after recovery; this isn’t usually anything to worry about.
When would my child be admitted to the Intensive Care or High Dependency Units?
Very few children require intensive care for bronchiolitis but there are two main reasons why they might need it.
The first is if their oxygen saturations stay low or they’re developing severe breathing problems where the effort to breathe is exhausting them, or if they have apnoea (short periods during which they stop breathing).
What treatment will they receive in the intensive care/high dependency unit?
The team will support a child through their illness in a number of ways.
• High flow oxygen – a mixture of air and oxygen given at a ‘high flow’ through short plastic tubes placed just inside the nostrils, helping to open your child’s airways so the lungs can add oxygen to their blood • Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) – a mixture of air and oxygen delivered at a high pressure through short plastic tubes or a face mask. The pressure of this mixture opens the child’s airways • Intubation and ventilation – if your child’s exhausted or not getting enough oxygen after support from high flow oxygen or CPAP, or if they stop breathing frequently or for long periods, we may suggest putting them on a ventilator or ‘breathing machine’. The ventilator will do their breathing for them while they are unwell, reducing the effort needed to breathe and increasing the oxygen reaching the lungs A breathing tube, connected to the ventilator, is passed into their airway through their mouth or nose. We will give them medicine to make them sleepy and to reduce movement, so they don’t feel any discomfort. The breathing tube means they won’t be able to cry or make noises while on the machine • High-frequency oscillation – if your child’s oxygen saturations remain low, we may suggest a different machine. Its ventilator pushes oxygen in and out of their lungs through the same tube, but is delivered in very short, fast breaths. This machine is noisy, so we’ll give your child medicine to stop them moving during the treatment.
Although bronchiolitis is caused by a virus, some children in intensive care will be given a course of antibiotics to treat any bacterial chest infection that may occur concurrently.
Fluids and feeding
When they’re admitted, we would start your child on intravenous fluids rather than milk feeds, until the most suitable type of breathing support is chosen. Once stable, a naso-gastric tube will be passed into one nostril and down the foodpipe to the stomach, so your child can receive milk feeds.
Nebulisers may help your child breathe. Hypertonic saline, a salt and water solution, can then loosen the lungs’ thick mucus so it may be cleared more easily. Adrenaline nebulisers can also help widen the narrowed airways for short periods.
A physiotherapist may give your child chest physiotherapy, which helps loosen and clear the mucus from the child’s airway.
What happens after an intensive care stay?
When we see your child is starting to recover, we’ll start to ‘wean’ them off the breathing machine. When we’re happy your child can breathe well without its help, we’ll try removing the breathing tube and, if they continue breathing well without support, they’ll be discharged.
Bronchiolitis can last up to three weeks, so your child will be transferred back to your local hospital to continue recovering, as they may still need oxygen delivered through nasal prongs for a week or two and help to start feeding from the breast or bottle again. Your local hospital will gradually reduce the amount of oxygen given to your child as they recover and you’ll be able to return home when they’re breathing and feeding well again.
What’s the outlook like for children who’ve had bronchiolitis?
With supportive treatment, the outlook for children who’ve had bronchiolitis is good – it usually gets better with few or no long-term effects.
Some children hospitalised with bronchiolitis may have wheeziness episodes with coughs and colds while they are young. While they may benefit from using inhalers, this doesn’t mean they’ll be diagnosed with asthma. If your child had severe bronchiolitis, they may have a cough for several weeks afterwards. We understand you may be concerned, but it’s usually nothing to worry about.
It’s rare for children to die from bronchiolitis; those who do usually have heart or lung conditions, were born prematurely and are still very young when they become infected.
Bronchitis describes an inflammation of your child’s large breathing tubes or airways, called bronchi. There are several different types of bronchitis, but the two most common are chronic, which primarily affects adults, and acute, which is an inflammation of the mucous membranes of your child’s bronchial tubes. Although it is often a relatively mild condition, in the earlier stages of acute bronchitis, your child may experience a dry, non-productive cough. Later on, this will become an abundant, mucus-filled cough. This coughing may even cause your child to gag or vomit.
What causes acute bronchitis?
Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a virus — it often follows the common cold.
- Acute bronchitis may occur in children who suffer from allergies, chronic sinusitis, or those with enlarged tonsils and adenoids
- Acute bronchitis can also be caused by dust, allergens, strong fumes, or secondhand smoke; acute bronchitis may be the cause or result of an asthma attack.
- Pneumonia can be a complication of bronchitis
Each child may experience symptoms differently, but common symptoms include:
- runny nose, usually before a cough starts
- malaise, or a general ill feeling
- slight fever
- back and muscle pain
- sore throat
How is acute bronchitis diagnosed and treated?
Usually, your child’s physician will be able to diagnose bronchitis based solely on your child’s medical history and a physical examination. Certain tests may be ordered, including chest X-rays, blood tests, and sputum cultures, to rule out other diseases and to confirm the diagnosis. It’s important to consult with your child’s physician, but most cases of acute bronchitis will go away on their own-symptoms usually last for one to two weeks. Make sure your child gets plenty of rest and drinks lots of water and fruit juices.