By Dr Shan Narayanan
WHAT IS BRONCHITIS?
The large air passages to the lung are called bronchi. When the child has a cold or sore throat, the virus that causes it can spread to the bronchi. When the virus gets to the bronchi, it causes swelling, inflammation and the mucus formed partly blocks the bronchi.
WHAT CAUSES BRONCHITIS?
Viral infection is the most common cause of bronchitis. Bronchitis can also be caused by bacterial infections, allergies, and irritants such as cigarette smoke, fumes and dust.
WHAT INCREASES THE RISK FOR BRONCHITIS?
Bronchitis is usually caused by a viral infection such as a cold. It can also be caused by a bacterial infection, exposure to polluted air or cigarette smoke. The risk may also be increased if the child has medical conditions such as asthma or allergies. Babies who are premature also have a higher risk for bronchitis.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF BRONCHITIS?
Your child has cold symptoms, like sore throat, fatigue, runny nose, chills, aches, and a slight fever. He’ll develop a cough, which starts as dry then becomes productive with whitish or greenish mucus. He may vomit while coughing.
He may feel short of breath and start wheezing. The bronchitis may progress for a few days, thus the symptoms may increase before settling. However, the cough may linger several weeks as the bronchi heals.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY CHILD IS HAVING TROUBLE BREATHING?
- Your child’s nostrils open wider when he breathes in.
- Your child’s skin between his ribs and around his neck pulls in with each breath.
- Your child is breathing fast.
HOW IS BRONCHITIS DIAGNOSED?
Your doctor will ask you relevant questions then examine your child. He will auscultate your child to hear for the breathing sounds. The expiratory phase (breathing out) will be prolonged and there may be wheezing.
Your doctor will also request for a chest x-ray to confirm the diagnosis.
HOW IS BRONCHITIS TREATED?
Treating bronchitis depends on its severity. Those with mild bronchitis can be treated at home. Those with breathing difficulty will require to be treated in hospital.
Drinking lots of fluids, with plenty of rest is encouraged. Some doctors may use symptomatic treatment for cough and cold for children above two years.
The secretions have to be cleared regularly.
In children with breathing difficulty, your doctor may prescribe a bronchodilator. These medications are often given through inhalers or nebulizer machines and help to relax and open the bronchial tubes and clear mucus so it’s easier to breathe.
As viruses are the most common cause of bronchitis, antibiotics is not usually used.