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Acute bronchitis is an inflammation of the air passages of the lungs. The trachea, bronchi, and bronchioles are involved.
Appropriate health care includes:
- Self-care, if the child is in good overall health.
- Physician’s monitoring of general condition and medications if the child has chronic lung disease or if complications develop.
- Hospitalization for extreme illness (rare).
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
- Cough that produces little or no sputum.
- Low fever (usually less than 101F or 38.3C).
- Burning chest discomfort or feeling of pressure behind the breastbone.
- Wheezing or uncomfortable breathing (sometimes).
- Infection from one of many respiratory viruses. Most cases of acute bronchitis begin with a cold virus in the nose and throat that spreads to the airways. A secondary bacterial infection is common.
- Lung inflammation from breathing air that contains irritants, such as chemical fumes (ammonia), acid fumes, dust, or smoke.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Cold, humid weather.
- Poor nutrition.
- Recent illness that has lowered resistance.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE
Your child should avoid close contact with persons who have any respiratory infection.
- Your own observation of symptoms.
- Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
- Laboratory blood counts to detect complicating infections and cultures of sputum and blood to identify the bacteria.
- X-rays of the chest (for complications only).
- Bacterial lung infection (various kinds of pneumonia).
- Chronic bronchitis from recurrent episodes of acute bronchitis.
Usually curable with treatment in 1 week. Cases with complications are usually curable in 2 weeks with medication.
- If your child is a smoker, urge him not to smoke during the illness. Smoking delays recovery and makes complications more likely.
- Increase air moisture in the child’s room. Give the patient frequent hot showers. Use a cool-mist humidifier by the bed.
- For minor discomfort, give your child: — Acetaminophen to reduce fever. — Non-prescription cough suppressants. Give them to the child only if the cough is non-productive (without sputum). It may be dangerous to stop a cough entirely–this traps excess mucus and irritants in bronchial tubes, leading to pneumonia and poor oxygen exchange in the lungs.
- Your doctor may prescribe: — Antibiotics to fight bacterial infections. — Expectorants to thin mucus so it can be coughed up more easily. — Cough suppressants.
- See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
The child should rest in bed until his temperature returns to normal. Then he can resume normal activity gradually as symptoms improve.
DIET & FLUIDS
No special diet. The child should drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of fluid each day to help thin mucus secretions so they can be coughed up more easily.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?
When signs of infection have decreased, appetite returns, and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
- Your child has symptoms of bronchitis.
- The following occurs during the illness: — High fever and chills. — Chest pain. — Thickened, discolored, or blood-streaked sputum. — Shortness of breath, even when the child is at rest. — Vomiting.