Virtual Pediatric Hospital: CQQA: Bronchitis
Pediatrics Common Questions, Quick Answers Bronchitis
Donna D'Alessandro, M.D.Peer Review Status: Internally Reviewed
Lindsay Huth, B.A.
Creation Date: June 2002
Last Revision Date: June 2002
What is bronchitis?
Bronchitis is a respiratory illness.
An infection causes an inflammation of the bronchial tubes. (The bronchial
tubes connect the windpipe to the lungs.)
Bronchitis can be either acute or chronic.
Symptoms of acute bronchitis come on quickly and may be severe. The condition
lasts no more than a few days to a few weeks.
Chronic bronchitis lasts longer than acute bronchitis. It may last months
What causes it?
Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a viral infection but can also be
caused by a bacterial infection.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known
as heartburn, can lead to bronchitis. The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is smoking.
Who can get it?
Anyone can get bronchitis. In fact, most people have bronchitis at least
once in their lives.
Bronchitis is common after having a cold.
Most people with chronic bronchitis are smokers. People who are around second-hand
smoke, such as children living with parents who smoke, are also at risk for
getting chronic bronchitis.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Bronchitis often starts with a dry cough.
The cough may bring up mucus (thick white, yellow, or greenish fluid).
Symptoms can also include headache, fever, chills, shortness of breath,
soreness or tightness in the chest, and wheezing.
A person with chronic bronchitis experiences most of these symptoms for
many days. Breathing may be very difficult for them.
People with asthma and bronchitis are more likely to experience chest tightness
and shortness of breath.
While a person has bronchitis, he is more likely to be infected by a second
Is it contagious?
Yes. Bronchitis is contagious.
It can be spread by coughing, sneezing, and touching items an infected person
How is it treated?
Take your child to the doctor if he shows symptoms of bronchitis.
The doctor will listen to his chest and may take
x-rays. Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a virus. Using antibiotics is not
The best treatment is to rest, drink plenty of fluids, and use an over-the-counter
medicine to treat the pain and fever.
Coughing helps bring up mucus and get rid of germs. Use a cough medicine
that eases, but does not stop coughing. Ask your doctor.
Using a humidifier may help relieve symptoms. Wash the humidifier each day.
In some cases, the doctor will recommend using a medicine called a bronchodilator
that makes breathing easier.
People with chronic bronchitis should stop smoking and avoid second-hand
Avoid things that could make symptoms worse, such as air pollution and allergens.
For more information on how smoking effects health and suggestions for quitting,
smoking and tobacco.
How long does it last?
Acute bronchitis lasts no more than a few days or a few weeks.
Chronic bronchitis can last months or years.
Can it be prevented?
To prevent the spread of germs, wash hands often.
Do not smoke, stop smoking, and avoid second-hand smoke.
When should I call the doctor?
Call your doctor if your child has symptoms of bronchitis.
Call your doctor if symptoms of bronchitis last a long time.
Call if your child is coughing up blood.
Call the doctor if you have questions or concerns about your child's treatment
Bronchitis is a respiratory illness. It can be either an acute or chronic
Acute bronchitis is often caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Chronic
bronchitis is often caused by smoking.
Anyone can get bronchitis. It is a common illness. Smokers are at high risk
for getting chronic bronchitis.
Symptoms include a cough, wheezing, fever, and soreness in the chest.
Bronchitis is contagious. It can be spread by direct or indirect contact.
To treat bronchitis, doctors usually recommend rest, drinking plenty of
fluids, and using an over-the-counter medication to ease coughing.
Acute bronchitis lasts no more than a few weeks. Chronic bronchitis can
last months or years.
Wash hands often to avoid the spread of germs. Stop smoking and avoid smoke.
Call your doctor if your child has symptoms of bronchitis or if you have
questions or concerns.
Chidekel A. and Dowshen S. Bronchitis. KidsHealth. 2001 September (cited
2002 April 8).
MayoClinic. What is Bronchitis? 2001 September 14 (cited 2002 April 8).
MEDLINEplus: Medical Encyclopedia. Bronchitis. 2000 February 9 (cited 2002
Additional pediatric resources: GeneralPediatrics.com | PediatricEducation.org | SearchingPediatrics.com
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