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Acute Bronchitis In Children


Acute bronchitis

is swelling and irritation in the airways of your child's lungs. This irritation may cause him to cough or have trouble breathing. Bronchitis is often called a chest cold. Acute bronchitis lasts about 2 to 3 weeks.

Common signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Dry cough or cough with mucus that may be clear, yellow, or green
  • Chest tightness or pain while coughing or taking a deep breath
  • Fever, body aches, and chills
  • Sore throat and runny or stuffy nose
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child's breathing problems get worse, or he wheezes with every breath.
  • Your child is struggling to breathe. The signs may include:
    • Skin between the ribs or around his neck being sucked in with each breath (retractions)
    • Flaring (widening) of his nose when he breathes

    • Trouble talking or eating
  • Your child has a fever, headache and a stiff neckr.
  • Your child's lips or nails turn gray or blue.
  • Your child is dizzy, confused, faints, or is much harder to wake than usual.
  • Your child has signs of dehydration such as crying without tears, a dry mouth, or cracked lips. He may also urinate less or his urine may be darker than normal.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child's fever goes away and then returns.
  • Your child's cough lasts longer than 3 weeks or gets worse.
  • Your child has new symptoms or his symptoms get worse.
  • You have any questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Treatment for acute bronchitis:

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much your child should take and how often he should take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • Cough medicine helps loosen mucus in your child's lungs and makes it easier to cough up. Do not give cold or cough medicines to children under 6 years of age. Ask your healthcare provider if you can give cough medicine to your child.
  • An inhaler gives medicine in a mist form so that your child can breathe it into his lungs. Your child's healthcare provider may give him one or more inhalers to help him breathe easier and cough less. Ask your child's healthcare provider to show you or your child how to use his inhaler correctly.
    Metered Dose Inhaler

Caring for your child at home:

  • Have your child rest. Rest will help his body get better.
  • Clear mucus from your child's nose. Use a bulb syringe to remove mucus from your baby's nose. Squeeze the bulb and put the tip into one of your baby's nostrils. Gently close the other nostril with your finger. Slowly release the bulb to suck up the mucus. Empty the bulb syringe onto a tissue. Repeat the steps if needed. Do the same thing in the other nostril. Make sure your baby's nose is clear before he feeds or sleeps. Your child's healthcare provider may recommend you put saline drops into your baby's nose if the mucus is very thick.
    Proper Use of Bulb Syringe
  • Have your child drink liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid your child should drink each day and which liquids are best for him. Liquids help to keep your child's air passages moist and make it easier for him to cough up mucus. If you are breastfeeding or feeding your child formula, continue to do so. Your baby may not feel like drinking his regular amounts with each feeding. Feed him smaller amounts of breast milk or formula more often if he is drinking less at each feeding.
  • Use a cool-mist humidifier. This will add moisture to the air and help your child breathe easier.
  • Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around your child. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can irritate your child's airway and cause lung damage over time. Ask the healthcare provider for information if you or your older child currently smokes and needs help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to the healthcare provider before you or your child uses these products.

Avoid the spread of germs:

Good hand washing is the best way to prevent the spread of many illnesses. Teach your child to wash his hands often with soap and water. Anyone who cares for your child should also wash their hands often. Teach your child to always cover his nose and mouth when he coughs and sneezes. It is best to cough into a tissue or shirt sleeve, rather than into his hands. Keep your child away from others as much as possible while he is sick.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Acute Bronchitis In Children (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

Micromedex® Care Notes