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:

  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • 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
  • Chills
  • Slight fever
  • Back and muscle pain
  • Wheezing
  • Sore throat

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.