Acute Bronchitis in Children
Bronchitis is a respiratory disease where the lining of the main airways in the lungs becomes inflamed. As the airways swell, it restricts the air supply to the lungs making it difficult to breathe.
Acute bronchitis is a common condition and a healthy child will usually recover fairly quickly without any problems.
Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, keeps recurring and can last a long time. Chronic bronchitis is defined as a cough with mucus most days of the month for three months of the year, for at least two years in a row. It mostly affects adults.
Acute bronchitis is usually a mild condition and often starts as a result of a respiratory infection such as cold or flu. It is usually a result of a viral infection, although it is sometimes caused by bacteria.
Common symptoms include:
- Coughing. May start as a dry cough but turns into one that brings up mucus from the lungs. The coughing may last for several weeks.
- Wheezing. Whistling noises when breathing, especially on physical exertion.
- Shortness of breath. The child may also experience chest discomfort.
- Runny nose.
- Fever and muscle ache.
Most symptoms will go away in about a week although the coughing can last for several weeks.
Diagnosis is based on a physical examination, medical history and symptoms. The doctor may order tests to rule out other conditions such as asthma or pneumonia.
These tests include:
Sputum Culture or Nasal Swab for Respiratory Viruses. Tests for the presence of bacteria or viruses in the sputum and identifies the organism so that the appropriate antibiotic can be prescribed.
Pulmonary Function Test. Also known as lung function test, it measures the airflow and volume of air in the lungs and allows your doctor to measure how well your lungs are functioning.
Chest X-ray or CAT Scan. These tests can confirm diagnosis of bronchitis and rule out pneumonia or other lung conditions.
Blood Tests. To test for inflammation of the lungs.
Acute bronchitis normally goes away on its own. Most treatments are meant to help relieve symptoms and include:
- Medication for fever
- Cough medicine or medication for rhinitis
- Vaporiser to help the child breathe easier
- Increased fluid intake to help keep the child’s air passages moist and better able to get rid of germs and other irritants
- Avoiding smoke or fumes
The doctor may prescribe bronchodilators to help open the tight air passages in the lungs if the child is wheezing.
As acute bronchitis is usually caused by a virus, antibiotics are usually not needed. Antibiotic is prescribed only if the bronchitis is caused by bacteria.