The concept of bronchitis in toddlers may scare you… It’s definitely a disease that needs to be treated, but it is fairly common among the little people.

But don’t panic just yet: pay attention to the following lines, where we will try to solve all your doubts about toddler bronchitis.

What is toddler bronchitis?

Bronchitis is an infection or inflammation in the bronchi, which are the little tubes inside the lungs that work as passages for the air we breathe. This infection causes the bronchi to get swollen and filled with mucus, which causes coughing and trouble to breathe. Your little one will need help to get better, but you don’t need to panic, since it’s a mild disease that usually gets treated and cured without further complications. However, some can last for quite a long time and be recurrent – that case is known as chronic bronchitis.


What causes bronchitis in toddlers?

As we have stated, bronchitis is caused by an infection, which can happen when the baby or the toddler has a cold, the flu, a sore throat or even sinusitis, and that virus spreads through the chest and the bronchi. The measles could also lead to a bronchitis.

Tobacco smoke makes easier for toddlers to get a cold and develop bronchitis, since it can irritate the bronchi – keep in mind that our little ones are more delicate than we are! Keep your child away from tobacco smoke as much as possible, and especially if he already has a cold or the flu.

Are there different types of bronchitis in toddlers?

Yes, there are two different types that can be distinguished: First, there is the bronchitis that is caused by allergies. In this case, the toddler’s bronchi react to certain substances, such as pollen. The respiratory crisis will appear mostly in the seasons where there is more pollen in the air, like spring.

The other type is the non-allergic bronchitis, in which there is no particular substance in the air that is worse for your little one’s bronchi, and anything can cause him to start coughing.

How common is bronchitis in toddlers?

Bronchitis in toddlers and babies is fairly common, but not as common as bronchiolitis, a similar disease: In this case, the infection affects the bronchioles, which are swollen and mucus-filled.

However, bronchitis is also quite common, so be aware of the symptoms if your little one suffers from a cold or the flu.

What are the symptoms of bronchitis in toddlers?

At first, your toddler will start suffering from the typical symptoms of a cold: fatigue, runny or stuffy nose, general fussiness or aches (depending on him being able to express them or not), a slight fever and a cough, which will give you the ultimate clue. That cough will start off being quite dry, but beware if it starts coming with mucus or nausea. Later symptoms will include shortness of breath and even pain in the chest, and the fever may rise.

Should I call the doctor if I suspect my child has bronchitis?

Yes. However, bronchitis in toddlers is a viral disease, which means the doctor will only be able to treat the symptoms. In order to determine whether it’s bronchitis or not, the doctor will listen to your little one’s breathing, and may also measure the amount of oxygen in his blood with a pulse oximetry.

Make sure to call the doctor if your child experiments any of the following:

  • His ears hurt (if he’s not able to tell you yet, you can notice it if he touches them and is fussy)
  • He is coughing a lot and with mucus
  • He refuses to drink or to eat.


In which cases should I take my child to the emergency room? 

Take your toddler to the emergency room if you detect any of the following, whether he’s been diagnosed with bronchitis or not:

  • He has a high fever
  • His breathing is worsening
  • You see his chest going too deep between his ribs when breathing
  • His lips or tips of his fingers have a bluish colour
  • He doesn’t seem to be able to stay awake

How is bronchitis in toddlers treated?

As we mentioned, toddler bronchitis is a viral disease, so only its symptoms can be treated – you just have to wait for the virus to be defeated. You can try to make sure that the conditions to breathe are as good as possible: you can use a humidifier in the room where he is, or use saline drops to help with his stuffy nose. Make sure he’s hydrating enough by drinking water, and also that he sleeps enough so he gets his strength back.

The doctor will prescribe medication for the fever if he has it, but he won’t prescribe anything for the cough, because he will need to get it all out. You can give him honey to sweeten his throat, that will be hurting from all the coughing (however, don’t give him honey if he’s not yet a year old, since it could be dangerous).

Could it get worse? 

Take your child to the paediatrician again if his cough is getting worse. The doctor may order an X-ray to see if he has developed a pneumonia. Bronchitis in toddlers can worsen also in the form of chronic bronchitis, which happens when the symptoms last for an extended period of time or when they come and go for months.


Can bronchitis in toddlers be prevented?

You can prevent your little one to get one of the infections that may en up in bronchitis, and to do so it’s important to keep good hygiene. Wash his hands (and yours!) frequently, as well as his toys, especially if he’s sharing them, and make sure he’s protected from smoke.

Now you know that there’s no need to panic about bronchitis in toddlers. Just take good care of your little one, who will appreciate extra cuddles and attentions whenever he’s feeling under the weather!


Need help? Ask other mummies in CaptainMums' forum!


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