It may begin as a common cold and last for a week or two. But sometimes it could end up inflaming the bronchial tubes and lead to bronchitis, which lasts longer.
Bronchitis is a common infection in children and babies, and can be cured at home with some care, although hospitalization may be needed in some cases. So, is bronchitis a serious condition that you should be worried about?
MomJunction tells you about bronchitis, what causes it, and the treatment options for bronchitis in children.
What Is Bronchitis?
Bronchitis is an infection of the lungs that causes the inflammation of the bronchial tubes’ lining. The bronchial tubes allow passage of air from and to the lungs. Bronchitis can be acute or chronic, with acute bronchitis lasting for two to three weeks, and chronic bronchitis lasting for at least four weeks and more.
Bronchitis vs. bronchiolitis:
Bronchitis is often confused with another condition called bronchiolitis (1). Bronchitis is more like a symptom that affects the bronchial tubes, while bronchiolitis is a specific condition that affects the smaller airways that branch off the bronchial tubes.
While bronchitis results in a persistent cough and the formation of mucus that blocks dust and air from passing to the lungs, bronchiolitis causes inflammation of the narrow airways that make breathing difficult.
Bronchiolitis is usually caused by the respiratory syncytial virus, and can sometimes be caused by adenovirus and rhinovirus (2).
Bronchitis is caused by a variety of respiratory infections and commonly occurs after the child has had a bout of flu or the common cold.
Often, bronchitis develops when the common cold or flu virus spreads to the bronchial tubes. In children, acute bronchitis is usually the result of a viral infection such as the common cold or the flu. Sometimes, bronchitis develops due to bacterial infections and allergens such as smoke, pollen, and dust.
Since the flu and common cold are contagious, children can also get the infection from someone who is already sick. Other factors that increase the risk of bronchitis in children are (3):
A weakened immune system
Living with or around people who smoke cigarettes
Air pollutants such as vehicular smoke, chemical smoke, and poisonous gases from factories
Adenoids and enlarged tonsils
Since bronchitis follows the flu or a bout of common cold, the condition is often misdiagnosed. To avoid that, you should watch out for the symptoms, which are discussed next.
The diagnosis usually involves a thorough physical examination and questions on the symptoms. The doctor would want to know how long the child has had the symptoms and the color of the mucus. The doctor would also check the child’s breathing and for any signs of wheezing or disturbance. In some instances, the doctor might recommend a few diagnostic tests mentioned here:
Chest X-ray to check for signs of pneumonia
Lung function test to check for asthma and emphysema
Test to check oxygen levels in the blood, along with other blood tests
Diagnostic tests on the mucus, to check for signs of whooping cough, also known as pertussis
Based on the diagnosis, the doctor will prescribe medication and treatment for acute or chronic bronchitis.
Usually, acute bronchitis goes away on its own within two or three weeks. In case the bronchitis is due to a bacterial infection, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics. If the child has asthma or allergies, the doctor may also recommend the use of an inhaler. Usually, treatment for bronchitis in children includes:
Plenty of rest
Intake of liquids
Ibuprofen for any discomfort or fever. Acetaminophen may also be prescribed if needed
Cough syrup, if the child is over four years old
Pulmonary rehabilitation therapy may be needed if the child has chronic bronchitis
However, severe bronchitis may cause complications such as:
Blue skin or lips, referred to as cyanosis, occurs due to lack of enough oxygen in the blood. Low levels of oxygen may lead to respiratory failure, if not taken care of immediately.
Apnea, which is a pause in breathing that commonly occurs in premature infants.
In such cases, the child would need hospitalization and constant medical care until the symptoms ease. Besides the treatment options prescribed by the doctor, following a home care plan can also help cure bronchitis faster.
Medication and any other treatment options, such as therapy, will be effective when you follow these home care tips for alleviating the symptoms of bronchitis (4).
Let the child rest as much as possible and keep him or her away from dust, cold weather, and smoke. This will alleviate the general feeling of ill health.
Give the child plenty of water – at least seven to eight glasses of water – every day.
Keep a cool-mist humidifier in the child’s room.
Use saline nasal drops to ease the congestion in the chest. But talk to the doctor before doing so.
Let the child sit or sleep in an upright position to ease any breathing problems.
Home care combined with some natural remedies can help alleviate the symptoms of bronchitis. Next, we’ll look at a few home remedies you can try for bronchitis in children.
Natural Home Remedies For Bronchitis
These home remedies ease the discomfort but do not cure the condition. Talk to your doctor before trying these bronchitis home remedies for your child.
Ginger, an excellent natural remedy to treat the common cold, can also help alleviate bronchitis. You can make herbal ginger tea, by boiling ground ginger in water for 15 minutes. Add a little honey and give it to the child.
Garlic has anti-viral properties, making it a good agent to fight the virus affecting the bronchial tubes. Peel and chop garlic, and boil them in a glass of milk. Give it to the child before bedtime.
Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory agent that can minimize the swelling of the bronchi and also get the excess mucus out. Add one teaspoon of turmeric to a glass of milk and boil it. Give it to the child two to three times a day for better results.
Steam therapy using eucalyptus oil can help relieve the congestion in the chest and nose.
Salt water gargling can also ease up the congestion by bringing the mucus out and clearing the airways.
A cough is one of the most discomforting symptoms of bronchitis. Honey is one of the best herbal remedies for cough and sore throat. Add honey and a dash of lemon to warm water and give it to the child to drink twice a day.
Raw onions can help dissolve the mucus and the phlegm that make breathing difficult. Add raw onions to the food or give the child a teaspoon of raw onion juice in the morning if he can drink it.
These remedies can be tried even if the child has the flu or cold, to prevent the infection from spreading to the bronchi. While you cannot entirely stop the child from developing bronchitis, you can minimize their chances of infection by following a few precautionary measures.
Bronchitis can be cured when it is detected early on. Ensure you get the child treated for the flu or cold sooner, for that can prevent the virus from spreading to the bronchial tubes. While there are no specific vaccinations for bronchitis, getting the child an annual flu shot can minimize the risk of infection.
Do you have any home care tips or suggestions for treating and preventing bronchitis in children? Let us know about it in our comments section.
Sagari is a math graduate and studied counseling psychology in postgraduate college, which she uses to understand people better. This skill also helps her write better articles about kids and their behavior. She is meticulous in her research and gives you information that could be the ultimate help you’ll need in times of need. An animal lover, vegan, and coffee addict, Sagari puts her mind and soul into whatever she does. During her free time, you'll find her either rescuing a sick/injured animal with a friend, or glued to her couch watching Sons Of Anarchy on Netflix.