Bronchitis in kids causes symptoms such as a cough with mucus, chest congestion, and a low grade fever. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause.

If a child experiences a new or persistent cough or other symptoms of bronchitis, it is best to contact a doctor for advice before giving them any medication. Following diagnosis, the doctor may also be able to advise on home remedies that can help ease their symptoms.

Read on to learn more about bronchitis in children. This article discusses symptoms and causes, treatment options, how doctors diagnose the condition, and more.

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The most common symptoms of bronchitis are:

  • a stuffy or runny nose
  • a whistling or wheezing sound when breathing
  • congestion of the chest
  • a cough, with or without green or yellow mucus
  • tiredness
  • low grade fever

Many conditions can cause these symptoms, so it is important that the child receives an accurate diagnosis before their doctor can advise on suitable treatments.

Learn more about the symptoms of bronchitis.

Bronchitis has different possible causes.

A virus, such as the common cold or flu, is usually the cause of acute bronchitis. Bacteria can also cause bronchitis, though this is less common.

Young children are particularly at risk of acute bronchitis. They are more likely to develop the condition if they have:

  • come into close contact with a person who has acute bronchitis or a virus such as a cold
  • not received a flu shot
  • experienced exposure to lung irritants, such as cigarette smoke, dust, airborne allergens, or air pollution

Bronchitis typically resolves by itself without the need for treatment once the infection causing it has run its course.

It is important to contact a doctor or pharmacist before giving any medication to a child. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it may be possible to give acetaminophen or ibuprofen to some children over the age of 6 months.

Children under the age of 4 years should not take cough and cold medication. The child’s doctor can advise whether they recommend over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medications if the child is over the age of 4 years.

To help ensure a child recovers as quickly as possible, a doctor may recommend getting plenty of rest and drinking enough water. Water can help thin the mucus and loosen chest congestion.

Research from 2020 shows that some complementary and alternative therapies can be effective at treating acute bronchitis in children.

Some home remedies that may help children to recover from bronchitis include:

  • clearing mucus using a rubber suction bulb
  • using honey to relieve coughs in children ages 1 year or older
  • sucking on lozenges for children over the age of 4 years

If giving a child a lozenge, it is important to supervise them due to choking risks.

Learn more about home remedies for bronchitis.

A doctor will generally be able to diagnose bronchitis in a child by examining them and assessing their medical history.

In order to confirm their diagnosis and rule out other possible conditions, they may order additional tests, such as:

  • sputum cultures
  • chest X-rays
  • blood tests

Bronchitis typically resolves on its own without complications developing.

However, in some rare cases, a child may experience possible complications from acute bronchitis, such as secondary pneumonia and respiratory difficulties.

It is best to contact a doctor for advice if there are concerns about complications due to bronchitis.

Learn more about how bronchitis can turn into pneumonia.

It may be possible to reduce the risk of a child developing bronchitis.

To lower the likelihood of a child developing bronchitis, a person can:

  • Make sure the child receives a flu vaccination, particularly for children under the age of 2 years.
  • Try to make sure their child does not come into contact with anyone who is ill.
  • Practice good hygiene by washing hands, especially before touching the child.
  • Ensure the child also practices good hygiene.
  • Keep their child away from airborne irritants such as cigarette smoke.

The child’s doctor can provide more tips on ways to reduce the likelihood of bronchitis.

Below are some frequently asked questions about bronchitis in children.

How do I know if my child has bronchitis?

A child may have bronchitis if they (or their parents or caregivers) have recently had a cold or flu, or if the child has a cough with mucus, chest congestion, fever, or low energy.

It is best to contact a doctor for advice if there are concerns about bronchitis in children.

How long does bronchitis last in kids?

Bronchitis symptoms typically last 7–14 days in children. However, in some cases, they may last 3–4 weeks.

Learn more about how long bronchitis takes to go away.

How serious is bronchitis in a child?

Bronchitis in children is usually a mild condition. However, in some cases, it may lead to severe complications such as pneumonia. If someone thinks their child may have pneumonia, they should seek immediate medical advice.

Bronchitis symptoms in children can include a runny nose, chest congestion, and a cough with or without mucus. The child may also have a low grade fever and low energy.

Acute bronchitis typically occurs due to a virus, though in some cases it can happen as a result of bacteria. Bronchitis may resolve without treatment. A doctor or pharmacist can also advise on suitable OTC medications, depending on the age of the child.

It is best to contact a doctor for advice as soon as there are concerns about the symptoms of bronchitis or related complications.