Chest Infection In Toddlers - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatments

Chest Infection In Toddlers

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As a mom, it is frightening to see your little one wheeze and cough constantly. And if he seems to turn blue with breathlessness along with the constant cough, then it might indicate a chest infection.

Before you panic and speak to your doctor, consider reading our post below. Here, we look at some common chest infection in toddlers and how it affects them.

What Is A Chest Infection?

A chest infection is an infection or inflammation of the lungs. Pneumonia and bronchitis are the most common chest infections. An infection in the air sacs can lead to pneumonia. An infection in the bronchial tubes (lung airways) leads bronchitis [1]. However, pneumonia is a more serious condition and has far greater complications than bronchitis.

[ Read: Bronchiolitis In Toddlers ]

1. Bronchitis:

Bronchitis can be either acute (for a shorter duration) or chronic (persistent/ongoing). Acute bronchitis clears up within ten days or so. Chronic bronchitis can mean an ongoing infection in the lungs, which may worsen over time [2].

2. Pneumonia:

Pneumonia can affect a part of or both lungs. It is an acute chest infection that may turn very severe. But, this type of chest infection clears up after a while with the help of medicine and rest [3].

[ Read: Pneumonia In Toddlers ]

3. Bronchiolitis:

Bronchiolitis is an infection that typically affects infants and toddlers. The infection leads to swelling of the tiny breathing tubes (bronchioles) in the lungs. The swollen tubes make it difficult for kids to breathe properly.

Bronchiolitis is more in toddlers, as their airways are still developing, and can become blocked easily. The condition differs from bronchitis as the latter affects the central airways and is more prevalent in adults [4].

Causes Of Chest Infection In Toddlers:

Chest infections typically occur due to a bacterial or viral infection. Some other causes include:

  • Bacteria are most often the cause of pneumonia and viruses for bronchitis.
  • Fungi or other diseases such as tuberculosis (a condition that mainly infects the lungs) or croup (upper airways inflammation) can also on occasion cause severe to mild chest infections [5].
  • Your child may inhale air particles infected with viruses or bacteria and get a chest infection. Air can get contaminated with parasites if an infected person sneezes or coughs without covering his mouth.
  • The immune system of toddlers is still developing, and this makes them more susceptible to chest infections. They are also at a stage where they are learning to crawl and walk. They may touch surfaces infected with parasites.

[ Read: Asthma In Toddlers ]

1. Causes of Bronchitis In Toddlers:

Your child can suffer from acute bronchitis due to a viral infection. Usually, these viruses are the same that cause flu and cold. If your child has exposure to cigarette smoke, dust, severe air pollution, then he can suffer from chronic bronchitis [6].

Viruses that may cause acute bronchitis (and bronchiolitis) are the adenovirus, parainfluenza, influenza viruses and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) [7].

2. Causes Of Pneumonia In Toddlers:

The main cause of pneumonia is a bacterial infection. But it can also occur due to viruses, fungi, and other parasites. Pneumonia that occurs due to the streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria is called pneumococcal pneumonia [8]. Your child can suffer from pneumonia if he has a cold or flu. Viral pneumonia is a mild infection, but it can lead to severe symptoms in some cases.

Fungi found in soil can infect the air, which if your child inhales can be a cause of pneumonia. Mycoplasma pneumonia is a parasite similar to bacteria. It often causes mild pneumonia in children.

Symptoms Of Chest Infections In Toddlers:

The symptoms of most chest infections are similar, with a few differences. Your child’s symptoms may depend on the severity of his infection. Some typical symptoms of chest infection in toddler includes:

  • Difficulty in breathing, shallow breathing
  • A cough (with or without phlegm)
  • Fever, chills
  • Wheezing
  • Discomfort or pain in chest
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Irritability
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

In bronchitis, the fever is mild or not present, while high fever is the first symptom of pneumonia. Bronchitis leads to mucus production with a cough occurs late into the infection, while, with pneumonia, mucus is present from the start of the infection. The symptoms of bronchiolitis are also the same as other chest infections.

Diagnosing Chest Infections In Toddlers:

The diagnosis of the chest infections may consist of chest X-rays, blood tests, and sputum or phlegm tests. The mucus inside the lungs that comes up with a cough is the sputum. An analysis of this mucus may help your child’s doctor to understand the severity of his condition [9].

In case if you see the signs of chest infection in toddlers persists for a while, the doctor may suggest a CT scan of your child’s chest area to understand the problem [10].

Treating Chest Infections In Toddlers:

Chest infection treatment plans usually consist of drugs and complete rest.

  • For mild chest infections, your child’s doctor may prescribe him antibiotics or other drugs. A hospital stay may become necessary if your child’s pneumonia becomes severe or doesn’t heal after a few weeks. The doctor may also suggest hospitalization if your child is excessively sleepy or dehydrated and has a high fever or has trouble breathing.
  • If your child’s infection worsens within 2-3 days of treatment or if symptoms persist even after the intake of medicines then you need to consult with the doctor again. In any case, make sure you update your child’s doctor about his condition every 48 hours or so.
  • The doctor may prescribe cough medicine or drugs for reducing fever. Additionally, make sure your child drinks sufficient fluids and eats well.

[ Read: Croup In Toddlers ]

Preventing Chest Infections In Toddlers:

To protect your child from chest infections, you can take a few preventive measures, which include:

  • Keep your house free of all kinds of smoke. Ensure your house is free of indoor air pollution. Volatile substances found in paint, dry cleaning, carpets and housecleaning products may harm your child if his chest infection is persistent.
  • Wash your hands with mild soap and water every time you touch your child, prepare his food and handle him. It works two ways as you limit his exposure to germs through you and vice versa. If you are going through an infection, you may risk passing it on to your young child.
  • Keep current with your child’s immunization. Ask his doctor if he may need shots for flu or other infections. But it is wise to avoid unnecessary vaccination as the viability of all vaccines for infections may not be known yet. For instance, pneumococcal vaccination may increase instances of severe pneumonia is some kids. The vaccine is for protection from pneumococcal disease that causes bacterial meningitis.

With some extra loving care, you can ensure your toddler is healthy and free of chest infection.

Did your kid suffer from frequent chest infections? How did you handle their treatment plans? Tell us about it below.

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