Bronchitis is when the large airway passages that connect the windpipe to the lungs become inflamed. This is caused by a viral or bacterial infection.
Bacterial bronchitis is more common than viral bronchitis.
Coughing is the main symptom of bronchitis. Your child’s cough might sound dry, or it might produce mucus.
Your child might also have a runny nose, sore throat or fever. And your child might be short of breath and have some wheezing.
If the cough started suddenly and you suspect your baby under one year might be choking, call 000 immediately and start choking first aid for babies. If your child is over one year and coughing doesn’t clear the blockage, call 000 and start choking first aid for children and teens.
Medical help: when to get it for children with bronchitis symptoms
Take your child to see your GP if your child has:
- a cough that isn’t settling down after 2 weeks
- a wheeze or is short of breath
- blood in their mucus.
You know your child best, so trust your instincts if your child doesn’t seem well. If your child has significant shortness of breath, your child’s skin or lips are pale or blue, or your child is drowsy or hard to wake up, call 000 for an ambulance.
Your GP can tell whether your child is likely to have bronchitis by checking your child’s symptoms and examining your child.
The GP might also refer your child for a chest X-ray if the cough doesn’t go away.
Viral bronchitis doesn’t need treatment and usually takes 1-2 weeks to sort itself out.
If your child has bacterial bronchitis, the doctor might prescribe antibiotics.
If your child’s coughing and wheezing don’t go away, your doctor might advise short-term use of anti-asthma medicine.
Honey might reduce the severity and duration of a bronchitis cough, but you shouldn’t give honey to children under 12 months because of the risk of infant botulism.
Children with bronchitis can go to child care or school if they’re generally well, other than having bronchitis.
Prevention of bronchitis
Your child and family can take simple precautions to prevent the spread of the viruses and bacteria that cause bronchitis. This can reduce your chances of getting sick:
- Make sure you regularly wash hands with warm, soapy water.
- Keep your hands away from your face as much as possible.
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbows.