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Childhood Illnesses: TNL’s Guide to Bronchitis

Bronchitis: What is it?

Bronchitis is an infection which leads to inflammation of the bronchiole, which are located in the lungs. This causes coughing, wheezing and often problems with breathing. It is quite common, mostly in children under 5 years old, but teenagers and adults can also contract the illness.

Bronchitis can be referred to as either acute (mild), or chronic (severe) and usually lasts up to three weeks. It is more common in winter months and often follows after contracting a common cold, or the flu. It is usually caused by a virus but can also stem from bacteria.

It is contagious and can be transmitted through the air, close contact, coughs, sneezes and touching contaminated surfaces. If someone with Bronchitis sneezes, the contagious particles stay present in the air before falling onto surfaces where the virus can survive for 24 hours. Frequent cleaning and practicing good hygiene are recommended to reduce transmission.

A diagnosis can be made by a doctor, who may listen to the chest with a stethoscope and assess present symptoms. Medication can be prescribed where necessary, but in most acute cases, having plenty or rest and staying hydrated are recommended, as unnecessary medication can weaken immunity overtime.

Little girl with the flu - isolated
Photo sourced form iStock

“Bronchitis can also be triggered by breathing in irritant substances, such as chemicals in household products or tobacco smoke-including inhaling second-hand smoke.”

Visit Bronchitis - NHS (www.nhs.uk)for more information.

What are the Symptoms?

Symptoms for Bronchitis:

  • a sore throat
  • coughing
  • wheezing
  • a slight fever (38C or above)
  • a headache
  • a runny or blocked nose
  • aches and pains
  • tiredness
  • coughing up yellow or green mucus

Most cases are mild, but a complication that can occur from Bronchitis is contracting pneumonia. This happens when the infection spreads further into the lungs and air sacs fill with fluid. People most at risk from contracting pneumonia are:

  • the elderly
  • smokers
  • those with existing health conditions
  • those with a weakened immune system
Pediatrician doctor examining sick child in face mask. Ill boy in health clinic for test and screening. Kids home treatment of virus. Coronavirus pandemic. Covid-19 outbreak. Patient coughing.
Photo sourced from iStock

What is the Treatment?

The best treatment is prevention. Regularly disinfecting surfaces and items, including bedding, drinks bottles and toys handled by children, will reduce transmission. Encouraging children not to share cups, bottles or cutlery is recommended, as is teaching good hygiene such as regular hand washing and using tissues to cough into.

If children are suspected to have Bronchitis, parents should be advised to keep children at home, as avoiding those who are ill is the most effective form of prevention. Other parents should also be informed if Bronchitis is present in the setting so they can look out for symptoms.

Keeping children hydrated, letting them rest and comforting them are all important. Paracetamol can be used to ease aches and pains and reduce fevers. Drinking plenty of water helps to stay hydrated and also thins the mucus in the lungs, making it easier for it to be coughed up and expelled.

Acute Bronchitis usually disappears by itself without medical treatment, however more severe (or chronic) cases will require professional treatment. Antibiotics are not usually prescribed as they will have little effect against viruses, however they may be given to those with weakened immune systems. Steroids are a more effective treatment if needed.

Photographer: Christina Victoria Craft | Source: Unsplash

Cough medicines are not recommended as there is little evidence that they have any positive effects. Instead, sore throats can be soothed with such remedies as drinking cool liquids, eating yoghurt or ice cream or drinking hot water with honey and lemon (allow to cool before giving to children).

If practitioners and parents are unsure, advice from a doctor should be sought. Professional guidance should be gained if fevers increase and remain high or a child is having difficulty breathing.

If a child has contracted Bronchitis, the best ways to treat them are:

  • Wearing PPE around infected children
  • Keeping them at home - all following treatments should be done at home as they should not be in their setting
  • Monitoring their temperature
  • Keeping them hydrated, drinking plenty of water rather than juice
  • Giving cool drinks and foods to soothe the throat (such as ice cream, yoghurts, ice lollies)
  • Letting them rest
  • Giving them paracetamol to bring down temperatures and ease discomfort, if needed. Labels should always be read to ensure age-appropriate dosage is given. Parental permission must be acquired before giving ANY medication to children. It is recommended that first aiders administer medications.
  • Consulting pharmacists or doctors for further advice and information on suitable treatments; rehydration sachets, lozenges, throat sprays may be an option
  • Making an appointment with a GP if the symptoms do not improve or disappear after a suitable length of time. The suggested time frame is having a persistent cough for more than 3 weeks, but personal judgement should always be used. If symptoms worsen within this time frame, such as consistently high temperatures, severe dehydration, or laboured breathing, seek advice from a medical professional by calling 111 or 999 immediately.
Photographer: Saulo Mohana | Source: Unsplash

Fun Facts

(courtesy of Health Guide Net)

“Chronic Bronchitis is a long-term condition that keeps coming back or never goes away completely. It is defined as a cough for at least 3 months during each of the preceding 2 years.”

“Smoking is the most common cause of Chronic Bronchitis, but other causes include repeated episodes of Acute Bronchitis, dust and fumes from the environment, and long-term exposure to air pollution. Second-hand smoke can also contribute to the development of CB.”

“An estimated 1 in 20 cases of bronchitis leads to pneumonia.”

Some effective home remedies are:

  • Eucalyptus Oil- assists with healing coughs and breaking down mucus
  • Sleep- helps the body to regenerate, releasing hormones that repair damaged tissue
  • Ginger- consuming ginger can have anti-inflammatory results
  • Cayenne pepper- encourages coughing and excretion of mucus
  • Garlic- has anti-viral and antibiotic properties, great for fighting infections