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Acute Bronchitis In Children


Acute bronchitis is swelling and irritation in the air passages of your child's lungs. This irritation may cause him to cough or have other breathing problems. Acute bronchitis often starts because of another illness, such as a cold or the flu. The illness spreads from your child's nose and throat to his windpipe and airways. Bronchitis is often called a chest cold. Acute bronchitis lasts about 2 weeks and is usually not a serious illness.



  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen: These medicines are given to decrease your child's pain and fever. They can be bought without a doctor's order. Ask how much medicine is safe to give your child, and how often to give it.
  • Cough medicine: This medicine helps loosen mucus in your child's lungs and make it easier to cough up. This can help him breathe easier.
  • Inhalers: Your child may need one or more inhalers to help him breathe easier and cough less. An inhaler gives medicine in a mist form so that your child can breathe it into his lungs. Ask your child's healthcare provider to show him how to use his inhaler correctly.

  • Steroid medicine: Steroid medicine helps open your child's air passages so he can breathe easier.
  • Antiviral medicine: Antiviral medicine may be given to fight an infection caused by a virus.
  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight an infection caused by bacteria. Give your child this medicine exactly as ordered by his healthcare provider. Do not stop giving your child the antibiotics unless directed by his healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or give your child leftover antibiotics that were given to him for another illness.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Call your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age: Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.

Help your child rest:

Your child may breathe easier with his head elevated. If your child is older, place 1 or 2 pillows behind his back. Never put pillows in a baby's crib or prop a baby up on pillows. If your baby's face gets caught in the pillow, he could suffocate. To help a baby breathe easier, sit him upright in an infant seat. You may also slightly raise the head of the crib mattress, only if the mattress is firm (not thin and bendable). Place books or a pillow underneath the head of the mattress (between the mattress and springs). Always raise the side rails of the crib when you leave a baby's bedside.

Give your child plenty of liquids:

  • Help your child drink at least 6 to 8 eight-ounce cups of clear liquids each day. Give your child water, juice, broth, or sports drinks. Do not give sports drinks to babies and toddlers.
  • 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. If so, feed him smaller amounts of breast milk or formula more often.

Use a humidifier:

Use a cool mist humidifier to increase air moisture in your home. This may make it easier for your child to breathe and help decrease his cough. Wash the device with soap and water every day. Keep humidifiers out of the reach of children.

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 wash their hands often as well. 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.

Use a bulb syringe if your child cannot blow his nose:

  • You can find bulb syringes at a drug or grocery store. Squeeze the bulb and gently put the tip into your child's nostril. Gently close off the other nostril by pressing on it with your fingers. Release the bulb so it sucks up the mucus.
  • Empty the mucus from the bulb syringe into a tissue. Repeat if needed. Do the same for the other nostril. The bulb syringe should be cleaned after use. Follow the cleaning directions on the package.
  • You may need saline (salt water) nose drops to loosen the mucus. You can buy saline nose drops at a grocery or drug store. Put 2 or 3 drops into a nostril. Wait for 1 minute for the mucus to loosen. Then use the bulb syringe to remove the mucus and saline. Do the same with the other nostril.

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

Write down any questions you have so you remember to ask them in your follow-up visits.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child's cough does not go away or gets worse.
  • Your child tugs at his ears or has ear pain.
  • Your child has swollen or painful joints.
  • Your child has a new rash or itchy skin.
  • Your child has new symptoms or his symptoms get worse.
  • You have any questions or concerns about your child's medicine or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your child's breathing problems get worse, or he wheezes with every breath.
  • Your child has signs of struggling to breathe. These 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 because of his breathing problems
  • Your child has a headache and a stiff neck with his fever.
  • Your child's lips or nails turn gray or blue.
  • Your child is dizzy, confused, faints, or is much harder to wake up than usual.
  • Your child has signs of dehydration. Dehydration means that your child does not have enough fluid in his body. Signs of dehydration may include:
    • Crying without tears
    • Dry mouth or cracked lips
    • Urinating less, or darker urine than normal

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 (Discharge Care)

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