Bronchitis is a condition in which the mucus producing lining of the bronchial tubes, which are the airways that connect the lungs to the windpipe, becomes inflamed. The condition comes in two forms. Acute is the name given to bronchitis when it occurs as a singular illness for a shorter period of time, lasting up to three weeks and does not regularly recur. Chronic bronchitis, and the more severe obstructive chronic bronchitis, is related to long lasting bouts of the condition, where symptoms persist for more than three months and recur over a two year time period. Bronchitis in children is most commonly the acute form, and has many causes.
The majority of the time, bronchitis is caused by a virus, and it often follows another type of respiratory illness, such as an upper respiratory infection. This type of bronchitis in children is contagious, and can be spread from person to person from fluids in the nose and mouth. Viral bronchitis is not responsive to antibiotics, and home care is typically the preferred method of treatment. Increased fluid intake and plenty of rest are often an effective means of shortening the duration of the illness. Home remedies for bronchitis including adding essential oils to a warm bath or using a dehumidifier are other options that can help provide some relief from symptoms.
Less commonly, bronchitis in children may be caused by bacteria. In these cases, while home remedies may be effective for mild symptom relief, antibiotics are essential to treatment in order to help eliminate the bacteria that are causing the illness. Only a doctor can tell if bacterial bronchitis is present, and many times they may not be entirely sure. Evaluating symptoms is often the best way to determine whether bacterial or viral bronchitis causing illness. In many cases, the symptoms of bacterial bronchits may be more severe than those that commonly present when a virus is to blame.
Asthmatic bronchitis is another type of the condition and although it may seem like an entirely separate ailment, it is actually not very different from other types of bronchitis, in fact, it is the same thing. Asthmatic bronchitis just means that both bronchitis (whether sourced from bacteria or viruses) exists alongside an existing case of asthma. This type of bronchitis in children is less common, however can be more severe because the airways are already impacted from the primary illness. Treatment for the condition is similar to existing measures for bronchitis; however the increased inflammation may require the use of a bronchodilator or steroids in order to help airways open up and make breathing easier.
The symptoms of bronchitis in children may vary based on the severity of the illness, the age of the child and existing medical conditions as well as what type of microorganism or source that is causing it. The hallmark symptom of bronchitis is coughing up mucus, and it may be many different colors. Green, white and yellow mucus are not uncommon with the condition. Coughing up brown mucus may be a troublesome indicator because it may point to the presence of blood. Unfortunately, coughing up blood can be a symptom of pneumonia, and if this occurs, the child should be taken to a medical facility as soon as possible. Aside from this scary symptom, many of the other traits of bronchitis can mimic the symptoms of pneumonia.
In fact, aside from a mucus producing cough, there are many other symptoms that can make differentiating between bronchitis vs pneumonia difficult. Both can lead to a fever, chills, wheezing, headache, shortness of breath, a general feeling of illness, and discomfort in the chest. This difficulty in distinction between the two makes enlisting the help of health care provider to diagnose bronchitis in children even more important. Because the two conditions share so many symptoms, it is important not to assume bronchitis is present when the more serious condition pneumonia may in fact be causing the illness.
Bronchitis in children is very common. It is highly contagious nature makes passing it around classrooms and playgrounds much easier, and the common mis-identifications of the illness can make it easy to pass off as everything from a cold to the flu to something even more serious. Therefore it is essential that if a child develops symptoms that are related to bronchitis that he or she be kept away from other children, be given plenty of fluids and an opportunity to rest as well as a visit to a health care provider.