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Causes of bronchitis

Bronchitis is when the large airway passages that go to the lungs become inflamed, usually because of a viral infection, or more rarely a bacterial infection.

Bronchitis symptoms

Coughing is the main symptom of bronchitis. Your child's cough might sound dry or wet.

If your child has bronchitis and his upper airways are also affected, he might have a runny nose and sore throat as well as a cough. He might have a mild fever too. He might be a bit short of breath and have some wheezing.

If your child is wheezing a lot and is short of breath, it could be asthma or bronchiolitis. Severe coughing and wheezing in children is more likely to be caused by asthma than by bronchitis. If your child has a high fever and difficulty breathing, it might be pneumonia.

Your GP will work out what's causing your child's symptoms.

Bronchitis is more common in adults, but it can occur in children.

If the cough started suddenly and you suspect your child might be choking on something, you should start choking first aid and seek immediate medical attention.

When to see your GP about bronchitis symptoms

You should take your child to see your GP if your child:

  • has had asthma attacks in the past
  • has a high fever
  • has a cough that isn't settling down after 7-10 days
  • has a wheeze or is short of breath
  • has blood in her mucus
  • is having trouble breathing or is breathing heavily.

Tests for bronchitis

Your GP can tell whether your child is likely to have bronchitis by asking you questions about your child's symptoms and by examining your child.

The GP might also refer your child for a chest X-ray if the cough doesn't go away.

Bronchitis treatment

Bronchitis usually takes 1-2 weeks to sort itself out, and generally doesn't cause any complications.

If your child's coughing and wheezing don't go away, your doctor might advise some short-term use of anti-asthma medication.

If your doctor thinks a bacterial infection is causing the bronchitis or if the cough won't go away, the doctor might prescribe antibiotics. Antibiotics aren't often prescribed, however, because bronchitis is usually caused by a virus, and antibiotics won't work for viruses.

Cough medicines usually don't help a bronchitis cough. Honey might reduce the severity and duration of a bronchitis cough, but you shouldn't give honey to children aged under 12 months because of the risk of infant botulism, a rare but serious type of food poisoning.