Bronchitis in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Bronchitis is inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which carry air to the lungs. When these tubes are inflamed, they swell and produce mucus. The swollen tubes and increased mucus make your child cough and may make it harder for him or her to breathe.

Bronchitis is usually caused by viruses and often follows a cold or flu. Antibiotics usually do not help and they may be harmful. Bronchitis lasts about 2 to 3 weeks in otherwise healthy children.

Children who live with parents who smoke around them may get repeated bouts of bronchitis.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Make sure your child rests. Keep your child at home as long as he or she has a fever.
  • Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think your child is having a problem with his or her medicine.
  • Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for fever, pain, or fussiness. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 18. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Be careful with cough and cold medicines. Don't give them to children younger than 6, because they don't work for children that age and can even be harmful. For children 6 and older, always follow all the instructions carefully. Make sure you know how much medicine to give and how long to use it. And use the dosing device if one is included.
  • Be careful when giving your child over-the-counter cold or flu medicines and Tylenol at the same time. Many of these medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Read the labels to make sure that you are not giving your child more than the recommended dose. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Your doctor may prescribe an inhaled medicine called a bronchodilator that makes breathing easier. Help your child use it as directed.
  • If your child has problems breathing because of a stuffy nose, squirt a few saline (saltwater) nasal drops in one nostril. Then have your child blow his or her nose. Repeat for the other nostril. For infants, put a drop or two in one nostril, and wait for 1 to 2 minutes. Using a soft rubber suction bulb, squeeze air out of the bulb, and gently place the tip of the bulb inside the baby's nose. Relax your hand to suck the mucus from the nose. Repeat in the other nostril.
  • Place a humidifier by your child's bed or close to your child. This will make it easier for your child to breathe. Follow the instructions for cleaning the machine.
  • Keep your child away from smoke. Do not smoke or let anyone else smoke in your house.
  • Wash your hands and your child's hands frequently so you do not spread the disease.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has severe trouble breathing. Signs of this may include the chest sinking in, using belly muscles to breathe, or nostrils flaring while your child is struggling to breathe.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has any trouble breathing.
  • Your child has increasing whistling sounds when he or she breathes (wheezing).
  • Your child has a cough that brings up yellow or green mucus (sputum) from the lungs, lasts longer than 2 days, and occurs along with a fever.
  • Your child coughs up blood.
  • Your child cannot keep down medicine or liquids.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child is not getting better after 2 days.
  • Your child's cough lasts longer than 2 weeks.
  • Your child has new symptoms, such as a rash, an earache, or a sore throat.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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