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Acute bronchitis is most often caused by a viral infection. It may also be caused by bacteria or things like dust, allergens, strong fumes, or tobacco smoke.
In children, the most common cause of acute bronchitis is a virus. The illness may develop after a cold or other viral infection in the nose, mouth, or throat (upper respiratory tract). Such illnesses can spread easily from direct contact with a person who is sick.
Children who have a higher chance of developing acute bronchitis are those who have:
These are the most common symptoms:
These symptoms usually last 7 to 14 days. But the cough may continue for 3 to 4 weeks. These symptoms may look like other health problems. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your child’s healthcare provider can usually diagnose acute bronchitis with a health history and physical exam. In some cases, your child may need tests to rule out other health problems, such as pneumonia or asthma. These tests may include:
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
In nearly all cases, antibiotics should not be used to treat acute bronchitis. That’s because most of the infections are caused by viruses. Even children who have been coughing for longer than 8 to 10 days often don't need antibiotics.
The goal of treatment is to help ease symptoms. It may involve:
Talk with your child’s healthcare provider before giving over-the-counter cough and cold medicine to your child. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend giving these medicines to children younger than 4 years because they may cause harmful side effects. For children between the ages of 4 and 6 years, only use over-the-counter products when recommended by your child's healthcare provider. In most cases, also don’t give antihistamines. They can dry up the secretions. That can make the cough worse.
You can help prevent acute bronchitis by stopping the spread of viruses that may lead to it. Take these steps:
Call your child’s healthcare provider right away if your child’s symptoms get worse, or if he or she has:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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