Acute Bronchitis in Children
What is bronchitis?
Bronchitis is an inflammation of the large breathing tubes (airways) that are called
bronchi, which causes increased production of mucus and other changes. Although there
are several different types of bronchitis, the most common are acute and chronic (primarily
What is acute bronchitis?
Acute bronchitis is the inflammation of mucous membranes of the bronchial tubes.
What causes acute bronchitis?
Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a viral infection. It may also be caused by
physical or chemical agents -- dusts, allergens, strong fumes, and those from chemical
cleaning compounds, or tobacco smoke. Acute asthmatic bronchitis may happen as the
result of an asthma attack, or it may be the cause of an asthma attack.
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. When it is caused by a
virus, which is most of the time, antibiotics will not help.
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
What are the symptoms of acute bronchitis?
The following are the most common symptoms for acute bronchitis:
In the earlier stages of the condition, children may have a dry, nonproductive cough
which progresses later to an abundant mucus-filled cough. Younger children may have
some vomiting or gagging with the cough. The symptoms of bronchitis usually last 7
to 14 days, but may also persist for 3 to 4 weeks.
The symptoms of acute bronchitis may look like other conditions or medical problems.
Consult your child's health care provider for a diagnosis.
How is acute bronchitis diagnosed?
Bronchitis is usually diagnosed solely on the history and physical exam of the child.
In some cases, other tests may be done to rule out other diseases, such as pneumonia
Chest X-rays. A diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images
of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
Pulse oximetry. An oximeter is a small machine that measures the amount of oxygen in the blood. To
obtain this measurement, a small sensor (like a bandage) is taped onto a finger or
toe. When the machine 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 cultures. A test used to find and identify the microorganism causing an infection.
Treatment for acute bronchitis
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 8 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)
Increased fluid intake
Cool mist humidifier in the room may be helpful
Avoid antihistamines, in most cases, because they dry up the secretions and can make
the cough worse.
Always consult your child's health care provider for advice before giving over-the-counter
cold medication to children younger than 6 years of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics
does not recommend giving over-the-counter cough and cold medications to children
under 2 years of age because these medicines may cause harmful side effects that can