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 Medical Self-Care: Childhood Bronchitis 
American Institute for Preventive Medicine ©
There are 2 kinds of bronchitis:
  1. Acute bronchitis lasts from 3 days to 3 weeks.
  2. Chronic bronchitis can last up to 3 months, and come back over and over for 2 years or more.

Children usually get acute bronchitis.

Acute Bronchitis

An infection or something in the air can cause acute bronchitis. Bronchitis attacks the respiratory tract. The mucous membranes in the windpipe and lungs get red and swollen. A child can get bronchitis after a sinus infection, a cold, or other respiratory infection. Coughing is often the first sign of bronchitis. The child may also get chills, a small fever, a sore throat, and muscle aches.

Signs of Acute Bronchitis:

  • A dry cough
  • Chills, low-grade fever (less than 101ºF)
  • Sore throat and achy muscles
  • Pressure or a burning feeling in the chest

The doctor may prescribe any of these medicines:

  • Bronchodilators to open up the bronchial passages in the lungs
  • Antibiotics to fight infection

Chronic Bronchitis

The bronchial tubes are the airways to and from the lungs. A child can get chronic bronchitis when the bronchial tubes get irritated or infected over and over again. Tobacco smoke is the most common cause. Don’t smoke near your children, and don’t let them smoke. This is very important. Sometimes just quitting smoking can cure bronchitis. Allergens and air pollution are also problems. (An allergen is something your child is allergic to.) Boys get chronic bronchitis more than girls. You can’t catch chronic bronchitis from someone else.

Signs of Chronic Bronchitis:

  • Coughing that brings up mucus or phlegm
  • Shortness of breath when the child over does it. This happens when chronic bronchitis first begins.
  • Shortness of breath when the child is resting. This happens when the child has had chronic bronchitis for a while.

    How to treat chronic bronchitis:

    • Stop smoking and keep your child away from second-hand smoke.
    • Try to keep your child away from air pollution and chemicals that make him or her sick.
    • Keep your child out of cold, wet weather.
    • Give your child a cough medicine that has an expectorant. An expectorant helps bring up phlegm.

    Questions to Ask

    Does your child have these problems?

    • Blue color around the lips
    • Can’t talk or make normal sounds
    • Can’t swallow
    • Coughs up blood
    Yes: Seek Care

    Does your child have trouble breathing, especially when they are not coughing?

    Yes:See Doctor

    Is your child a baby less than 3 months old?

    Yes:See Doctor

    Is the person a baby or young child?

    Does the child breathe fast? And does the cough sound like a seal’s bark (high and whistling)?

    Yes:See Doctor

    Does your child have any of these problems?

    • 1010 or higher fever
    • Chest pain
    • Shortness of breath when resting
    • Throwing up
    Yes:See Doctor
    Has your child been around chemicals at school or at home? For example: new carpet, smoke?Yes:Call Doctor

    Self-Care Tips

    • Have your child breathe from a cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier. Clean the vaporizer or humidifier every day. Use distilled water in a vaporizer, not tap water.
    • Give your child acetaminophen for fever and aches. (Note: Do not give aspirin to anyone under 19 years old unless your doctor tells you to. Aspirin and other medicine that have salicylates have been linked to Reye’s Syndrome, a condition that can kill.)
    • Have your child rest in bed.
    • Give your child plenty of liquids like water and clear soup.
    • Keep your child away from air pollution as much as you can. Use air conditioning and air filters. Have your child wear a filter mask over their nose and mouth if needed. Keep your child inside when air pollution is heavy, if he or she gets bronchitis easily.
    • Don’t smoke in the house. It will make your child’s bronchitis worse.
    • Avoid over-the-counter cough drops or cough syrup. Get your doctor to prescribe expectorants, bronchodilators, or antibiotics instead.
    • Keep your child’s shots up-to-date. (See “Immunization Schedule and Record”, on page 81.) Whooping cough (pertussis) can look like bronchitis.
    • Call the doctor if your child doesn’t get better in 24 hours
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