Identifying and Treating Bronchitis in Kids
No one likes to see his or her children get sick but when it comes to helping them recover, knowledge is power. Bronchitis is an illness that can affect people of all ages so it’s good to be able to recognize the symptoms in your child before it turns into a more severe infection. Below you’ll learn how to identify bronchitis in your kid as well as some ways that you can help him or her alleviate symptoms and make a speedy recovery.
What Is Bronchitis?
This illness is defined as inflammation and irritation in the lining of the airways. For most people, kids included, bronchitis occurs as a result of an upper respiratory infection. This infection could be caused by a bad cold, the flu, or even a sinus infection. In other cases, bronchitis can occur as a result of prolonged exposure to tobacco smoke and other smoke and air pollutants.
There are two types of bronchitis: acute and chronic. Acute bronchitis is a short-term version of the illness, which is what most people experience when they get a bad flu or sinus infection. The airways leading to the lungs become red and inflamed, which can cause pain and coughing, some of which is accompanied by a yellowish mucus. People with acute bronchitis will cough and wheeze a lot and they might feel congestion or tightness in their chests as well.
On the other hand, chronic bronchitis is often associated with COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. As the name suggests, this condition stays around for the long term. Fortunately, most people who get bronchitis have the acute type, which is highly treatable, albeit unenjoyable. The thing about acute bronchitis is that it is often started by the same virus that carries the cold and flu.
Acute bronchitis can be contagious, especially if it stems from a viral infection, since it can travel through the air when infected people cough. Moreover, if they don’t wash their hands, the virus is being spread on all of the surfaces that they touch, such as faucets and door knobs. It’s important to note that even after the infection is gone, a cough may linger for weeks afterwards.
Figuring Out If Your Child Has Bronchitis
You might suspect that your son or daughter has bronchitis if he or she has a cough that just won’t go away. If the cough lasts for over two weeks, then there’s a good chance that he or she has a bronchial infection. Some other symptoms to be on the lookout for include yellowish or greenish mucus that he or she coughs up. He or she might have an accompanying fever along with all of the coughing. Be sure to ask if he or she feels any muscle or body aches. He or she might complain that his or her chest or stomach hurts, which is a result of all the heavy coughing.
You should also listen to your child’s breathing. Is it shallow and noisy? This is because his or her airways are inflamed and aren’t letting in as much air as they should be. If your child is complaining that his or her throat hurts, you could also look into his or her mouth using a flashlight to see if the throat looks sore and red.
If you suspect that he or she has bronchitis, feel free to take him or her to the doctor. While this illness can clear itself up on its own, it sometimes helps to get a prescription for an inhaler as this can help alleviate shortness of breath and wheezing. When you take your son or daughter to the doctor’s office, the doctor will listen to his or her breathing and ask about his or her symptoms. The doctor might hear a lot of noise from his or her lungs, thanks to all of the mucus. To be safe, the doctor may ask for an x-ray of your child’s chest to rule out a more complicated illness such as pneumonia.
Treating Bronchitis in Young Children
Your child’s doctor might prescribe some medications to help your child get better faster. These medications might include ibuprofen for body aches and pains, a cough syrup to loosen mucus for easier expulsion, and an inhaler to open up the airways. If your child is under six years of age, then you need to be careful about what kinds of medications you give him or her. Your doctor will have suggestions for how to deal with bronchitis in younger kids. Because bronchitis is viral, it will stand up to antibiotics. The only case in which antibiotics would be prescribed is if the bronchitis stems from a bacterial infection. Your doctor will let you know if that’s the case for your child.
Once you and your son or daughter return home, you will want to make him or her as comfortable as possible. This means letting him or her get tons of rest as this will help his or her body focus on healing itself. In addition, you will want to keep the fluids coming. Liquids will keep your child hydrated, which will ease symptoms such as headache and fatigue. Drinks can also alleviate some of the throat pain and when the airways are moist, it’s easier to cough up mucus. If you’re unsure how much your child should be drinking, ask your doctor.
You may also want to try child-approved painkillers such as children’s Motrin. This will soothe cold and flu-like symptoms such as body aches and pains, congestion, and fever. If you have a humidifier, keep it in your son’s or daughter’s room. Humidifiers add more moisture to the air, which can have a beneficial effect on your child’s inflamed and sore throat.
Be sure to keep your child’s room and surroundings free of tobacco smoke and other harmful fumes. Even the smell of a neighbor’s chimney can be upsetting to inflamed airways. You want to make it as easy as possible for him or her to breathe clearly. Finally, make sure that you monitor his or her symptoms. They should be getting better after a few days, even though a mild cough may linger for a few weeks afterwards. If new symptoms start to appear or current symptoms get worse, call your doctor.