Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How to Identify Bronchitis in Children

Bronchitis is an infection in the airways that's often triggered by a different infection or virus. Your child may have a cold one day, a nagging cough the next and bronchitis a few days later. So how can you tell if a cough is bronchitis or just a simple cough? Bronchitis usually presents with the following symptoms:

  • Bronchitis' most common feature is a nagging cough. Your child may have a dry cough, which develops into a productive cough that brings up mucus from the lungs [source: Newport Children's Medical Group]. However, children often swallow the mucus they cough up, so don't assume they don't have bronchitis just because you don't see them coughing up sputum [source: Mayo Clinic].
  • Patients with bronchitis sometimes complain of chest pain. If your child complains of chest pains, remember it's probably from the severe coughing. Children with bronchitis might also complain of pain when they try taking a deep breath [source: Newport Children's Medical Group].
  • Since the airways are somewhat clogged with mucus, your child may have some shortness of breath with bronchitis. This may tire your child so much that he or she simply won't feel like participating in sports or active games [source: Newport Children's Medical Group].
  • Sometimes children with bronchitis make a wheezing or whistling sound when they breathe. This is a sign that the airways are blocked.

Since bronchitis is often caused by a virus, your child may also have other symptoms, including the following:

  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Runny or stuffed nose

Most of bronchitis' symptoms usually go away within about two weeks without antibiotic treatment. However, the cough often lingers. If you suspect your child has bronchitis, it's a good idea to have the pediatrician take a look. The underlying illness causing the bronchitis may need treatment, and what looks like bronchitis is sometimes a more serious illness.