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Pneumonia and Bronchitis are two illnesses that can have many harmful effects. Unfortunately, when children contract it, they experience excoriating pain and if gone untreated, there can be grave consequences. It is important to stay informed and understand the signs of these viruses and illnesses to prevent your child from having any long-term consequences.
Pneumonia is a form of acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs. The lungs are made up of small sacs called alveoli, which fill with air when a healthy person breathes. When an individual has pneumonia, the alveoli are filled with pus and fluid, which makes breathing painful and limits oxygen intake.
Pneumonia is the single largest infectious cause of death in children worldwide. Pneumonia affects children and families everywhere and even though we have amazing healthcare options in our country, our youth is still very much at risk.
The presenting features of viral and bacterial pneumonia are similar. However, the symptoms of viral pneumonia may be more numerous than the symptoms of bacterial pneumonia. In children under 5 years of age who have a cough and/or difficulty breathing, with or without fever, pneumonia is diagnosed by the presence of either fast breathing or lower chest wall indrawing where their chest moves in or retracts during inhalation (in a healthy person, the chest expands during inhalation). Wheezing is more common in viral infections.
There are several ways Pneumonia can spread. The viruses and bacteria that are commonly found in a child’s nose or throat can infect the lungs if they are inhaled. They may also spread via air-borne droplets from a cough or sneeze. In addition, pneumonia may spread through blood, especially during and shortly after birth. More research needs to be done on the different pathogens causing pneumonia and the ways they are transmitted, as this is of critical importance for treatment and prevention.
While most healthy children can fight the infection with their natural defenses, children whose immune systems are compromised are at higher risk of developing pneumonia. A child’s immune system may be weakened by malnutrition or undernourishment, especially in infants who are not exclusively breastfed. Pre-existing illnesses, such as symptomatic HIV infections and measles, also increase a child’s risk of contracting pneumonia.
Pneumonia is caused by several infectious agents, including viruses, bacteria, and fungi. The most common is streptococcus which is the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia in children. Hemophilus influenza is the second most common cause of bacterial pneumonia, followed by the respiratory syncytial virus which is the most common viral cause of pneumonia.
Preventing pneumonia in children is an essential component of a strategy to reduce child mortality. Immunization against Hib, pneumococcus, measles, and whooping cough (pertussis) is the most effective way to prevent pneumonia. Adequate nutrition is key to improving children’s natural defenses, starting with exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. In addition to being effective in preventing pneumonia, it also helps to reduce the length of the illness if a child does become ill. Addressing environmental factors such as indoor air pollution (by providing affordable clean indoor stoves, for example) and encouraging good hygiene in crowded homes also reduces the number of children who fall ill with pneumonia. In children infected with HIV, the antibiotic cotrimoxazole is given daily to decrease the risk of contracting pneumonia.
If your child’s symptoms are getting worse if he/she has a fever lasting for a few days, breathing problems, trouble drinking fluids, and new symptoms such as neck stiffness or swollen joints, it is time to call your child’s healthcare provider.
Now, it’s time to talk about Bronchitis. What is acute bronchitis in children? Bronchitis is an inflammation of the large breathing tubes in the lungs. The illness can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). Acute bronchitis means that the symptoms often develop quickly and don’t last long. Most cases are mild.
Acute bronchitis is most often caused by a viral infection. It may also be caused by bacteria or things such as 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 that are more at risk for acute bronchitis are kids that deal with chronic sinusitis, allergies, asthma, enlarged tonsils and adenoids, and exposure to secondhand smoke.
Your child’s healthcare provider can often 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 chest X-rays, pulse oximetry, or sputum and nasal discharge samples.
Treatment will vary depending 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 infections are caused by viruses. Even children who have been coughing for longer than 8 to 10 days often don’t need antibiotics.
It is important to talk with your child’s healthcare provider before giving over-the-counter cough and cold medicine to your child. Most experts do not recommend giving medication to children younger than four years old because it may cause harmful side effects. For children between ages four and six, only use over-the-counter products when recommended by your child’s healthcare provider. It is also important to note, not to give aspirin or medicine that contains aspirin to a child younger than age nineteen unless directed by your child’s provider. Taking aspirin can put your child at risk for Reye syndrome. This is a rare but very serious disorder. It most often affects the brain and the liver.
At the end of the day, pneumonia and bronchitis are two nasty illnesses that are brutal to deal with, but very much treatable. If your child finds themselves struggling with either one, self-care is an option, but Chai Care would be your best option for treatment because our incredible staff of trained experts will supply them with quality care while offering top-notch advice on how to stay healthy!
* Legal disclaimer: The content of this article and the entire Chai Care blog is for educational purposes only; it does NOT constitute medical advice and must not be considered as such. Please consult a medical professional regarding any symptoms or health concerns you or your loved ones.