How Does Bronchitis Affect Children?

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  • According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, bronchitis mostly affects people older than 45 years old
  • If a child has a cough with mucus on most days for at least three months, this could indicate that he or she has chronic bronchitis, a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • The physician may check for signs of dehydration such as sunken eyes, dry mouth and skin, sluggishness and little to no urination, especially if the child has been vomiting or refusing to eat or drink

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, bronchitis mostly affects people older than 45 years old. This isn't surprising, as most people at this age have either smoked cigarettes or become highly exposed to environments with bronchitis-causing agents.1

However, this doesn't mean that people from other age groups are safe. Unfortunately, children can also get bronchitis, usually in association with a viral respiratory infection.2 Bronchitis in  kids may lead to distress, not only because of the pain caused by symptoms, but also due to the potential lifestyle impacts. If you're a parent or a guardian of a young child, it definitely pays to be one step ahead of this debilitating disease.

What Causes Bronchitis Among Children?

If a child has bronchitis, this means that the bronchi, or the airways found in the lungs, have become irritated and inflamed because of certain agents.3 Large amounts of mucus or phlegm then develop in these airways and the ability to breathe in air and oxygen into the lungs decreases.4

There are two types of bronchitis: acute and chronic, with the former being more common in children, especially those under 5 years old. This commonly happens during the winter, and lasts for up to three weeks.5 Acute bronchitis in healthy children is rarely the only infection they have.6 Rather, it arises after having a cold or flu-like sickness,7 even though some types of viruses such as those below can also cause this disease:8,9

Respiratory syncytial

Parainfluenza

Influenza

Adenoviruses

Rhinovirus

Metapneumovirus

Human bocavirus


Certain bacteria strains can also trigger bronchitis in children, such as Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenza, Moraxella catarrhalis and Bordetella pertussis.10 However, bacteria-caused bronchitis does not happen that often.11 Like adults, children can also be affected with bronchitis if they are constantly exposed to irritants such as cigarette smoke, fumes, dust and polluted air,12 or if they have known allergies.13

If a child has a cough with mucus on most days for at least three months, this could indicate that he or she has chronic bronchitis, a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).14,15 This is a condition wherein patients already experience varying degrees of breathing difficulties, as well as better or worsened symptoms at particular points in the year.16 Just like with acute bronchitis, long exposure to and breathing in polluted air, smoke, dust or fumes can trigger chronic bronchitis.17

How to Check If a Child Has Bronchitis

Bronchitis symptoms in children are actually similar to those experienced by adults:18 If you notice any of these symptoms on a child, make sure to consult a physician immediately:

Sore throat

Fatigue

Runny nose

Chills and aches

Slight fever reaching up to 100 to 101 degrees Fahrenheit

Cough that starts out dry, but ends up producing green or yellow mucus

Chest pain

Shortness of breath

Wheezing

Infants May Experience Another Disease Altogether

If your infant has a runny nose, cough, slightly high temperature fever, or all of the above, these may indicate bronchiolitis.19 Babies are not normally affected with bronchitis, but this aforementioned disease may occur instead.20

Bronchiolitis occurs when the bronchioles, or the small air passages in the lungs, get filled with mucus and become swollen. A viral infection is to blame for this disease, especially if it involves either a respiratory syncytial virus,21 adenovirus, influenza or parainfluenza virus. There are also factors that can affect an infant's risk for this disease, such as:22

This sickness usually targets infants younger than 2 years old, especially when they are around 3 to 6 months old, and occurs more often during fall and winter. Infants acquire the disease when they come into direct contact with throat and/or nose fluids of an infected child or adult, usually via the following methods:23

Infants with bronchiolitis manifest these symptoms as well:24

Rasping and persistent dry cough

Wheezing

Brief pauses in breathing

Feeding less and vomiting after feeding

Having fewer wet diapers

Irritability

To diagnose bronchiolitis, a physician would observe a child first and use a stethoscope to listen to the lungs. The physician may also check for signs of dehydration such as sunken eyes, dry mouth and skin, sluggishness and little to no urination, especially if the child has been vomiting or refusing to eat or drink.25

However, certain tests might be ordered especially if the child is at risk for severe bronchiolitis, experiencing worsened symptoms or if another problem is suspected. These are:26

Fortunately, most cases of bronchiolitis resolve on their own without needing treatment, in around two to three weeks. There are also techniques that you can follow at home to alleviate this sickness:27,28

It's never too early or too late to know about debilitating illnesses that can affect a child while they're young. Parents or guardians definitely have the ability, in some way or another, to prevent bronchitis from affecting children so they can enjoy their lives to the fullest.

MORE ABOUT BRONCHITIS

Introduction: Bronchitis

What Is Bronchitis?

Is Bronchitis Contagious?

Types of Bronchitis

Bronchitis Causes

Bronchitis Symptoms

Bronchitis Treatment

Bronchitis in Children

Bronchitis During Pregnancy

Bronchitis Prevention

Bronchitis Diet

Bronchitis FAQ

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Bronchitis Treatment

Next >

Bronchitis in Pregnancy

[+]Sources and References [-]Sources and References

  • 1 “Who Is at Risk for Bronchitis?”, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, August 4, 2011
  • 2, 6, 11, 14, 17 “Pediatric Bronchitis,” EMedicine, June 18, 2015
  • 3, 5 “Bronchitis,” NHS Choices, August 3, 2016
  • 4, 12, 16, 18, 20, 21, 23, 24, 28 McIntosh and Webberley, “Bronchitis: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments,” Medical News Today, January 9, 2016
  • 7 Hadjiliadis, Zieve, Ogilvie and the A.D.A.M. Editorial Team, “Bronchitis — Acute,” MedlinePlus, April 26, 2014
  • 8 Christian Peiser (2012). “Bronchitis in Children, Lung Diseases — Selected State of the Art Reviews,” Dr. Elvisegran Malcolm Irusen (Ed.)
  • 9 Sather, “Acute Bronchitis in Children,” University of Rochester Medical Center Health Encyclopedia
  • 10 Worrall, G. (2008). “Acute Bronchitis,” Canadian Family Physician, 54(2), 238–239
  • 13 BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board, “Bronchitis in Toddlers,” BabyCenter, May 2014
  • 15 “Chronic Bronchitis,” MedlinePlus
  • 19 “Bronchiolitis — “Symptoms,” NHS Choices, September 10, 2015
  • 22 Kaneshiro, Zieve, Black and the A.D.A.M. Editorial Team, “Bronchiolitis,” The New York Times Health Guide, August 22, 2013
  • 25 Mayo Clinic Staff, “Bronchiolitis Diagnosis,” Mayo Clinic, April 26, 2016
  • 27 “Bronchiolitis — Treatment,” NHS Choices, September 10, 2015