Fighting bronchitis
A chronic cough, wheezing and fever could be more than just a cold.
(Getty Images)

It’s midnight, your child is thrashing about with a fever, and her chest sounds like a coffee grinder. Chances are this is more than just a simple cold – she may have developed bronchitis. Bronchitis is the inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, which connect the windpipe to the lungs.

If a child has bronchitis it is more diffucult for air to pass in and out of the lungs, the tissues in the bronchial tubes becomes irritated and it produces more mucous which causes a cough.

Acute bronchitis

This is a severe viral (can be bacterial) infection and may last for a few weeks.

  • It is usually caused by viruses which infect the bronchial tubes.
  • It may occur with or after a cold or flu or any other respiratory tract infection.
  • Certain bacteria can also cause acute bronchitis.
  • The germs are spread from person to person through coughing and physical contact of mucous.

Chronic bronchitis

This is a condition which could be mild or severe and can last months to years. The bronchial tubes are constantly irritated and swollen and produce excessive mucous.

  • This constant inflammation may be caused by exposure to second-hand smoke, chemical fumes and other air pollutants.
  • Chronic bronchitis makes children more susceptible to other airway infections like pneumonia and bronchiolitis.

What are the symptoms?

  • Starts out with a dry cough
  • Progresses to a cough that may bring up thick white, yellow, or greenish mucous
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fever (usually mild)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Soreness or a feeling of tightness in the chest
  • Wheezing (a whistling or hissing sound with breathing)

How is it treated?

  • Consult your doctor.

  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest and don’t send him to school.

  • Drink plenty fluids

  • Your doctor might prescribe a cough medicine. Cough medicine is good to loosen phlegm and open the clogged airways.

  • Don’t give your child a cough suppressant – coughing up the mucus is an important part of the healing process and blocking it might cause a secondary bacterial infection.

  • If your child has a viral bronchitis and there is a sudden change in the colour or amount of mucus, he might have a secondary bacterial infection which will then be treated with antibiotics to kill the bacteria.

    When to call the doctor

    • You should call your doctor if your child has difficulty breathing or breathing fast.
    • If the cough lasts longer than two weeks you should revisit your doctor.
    • Get to a hospital if your child is turning blue in the face, struggling to breathe, or coughing up blood.

    How can it be prevented

    • Children should not be exposed to second-hand smoke and chemical fumes.
    • Children with bronchitis or any other infection should not go to school
    • Wash your and your child’s hands regularly after play, before and after meals and visiting the toilet.

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