Signs & Symptoms of Bronchitis in Infants

Updated February 21, 2017

Bronchioles are the tubes in our bodies that carry air to the lungs. Bronchitis occurs when those tubes become inflamed and produce too much mucus. The Cleveland Clinic says the condition is more severe than the common cold, but not as dangerous as pneumonia. It can be caused by bacteria or viruses, or may occur after exposure to allergens or tobacco smoke.

Signs and Symptoms

If your infant is suffering from a common cold or other upper respiratory condition, you may suspect bronchitis if your child develops a frequent cough that produces mucus. Other signs to look for are fever, chills, lack of energy, back and muscle pain, sore throat, a wheezing sound when breathing or problems breathing. The University of Virginia Health System says that in the early stages of the condition, children may have a dry, non-productive cough that progresses to an abundant mucus-filled cough. It says younger children may also experience vomiting or gagging. Symptoms usually last seven to 14 days, but the condition can drag on for three or four weeks. There are two types of bronchitis: acute and chronic. Acute bronchitis is more likely to affect children. Chronic bronchitis is most often seen in adults.


SureBaby warns that children with bronchitis are more susceptible to other infections. Kids who suffer from asthma, or those exposed to second-hand smoke, are also more likely to develop bronchitis. Bronchitis is contagious. The University of Virginia Health System says it's critical to consult with your child's doctor for a diagnosis since the symptoms of bronchitis may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Treatment is important since pneumonia is a complication that can follow bronchitis.


Doctors diagnose bronchitis by taking a medical history, examining your baby and listening to her breathing. X-rays may be ordered to get a better look at the infant's chest. Tests also may be ordered to rule out conditions such as asthma or pneumonia.


If the bronchitis is caused by a viral infection, antibiotics won't do any good. The best course of treatment is to allow time for rest, provide lots of fluids and administer over-the-counter analgesics, such as acetaminophen, to treat the fever and discomfort. Running a cool mist humidifier in the baby's room may also help. If the bronchitis is caused by a bacteria, antibiotics may be prescribed. Specific treatments are based on your child's health history and tolerance for medication and your own preferences.

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About the Author

Carol Ochs is an award-winning writer in the Washington, D.C. area. During 17 years with The Associated Press she covered health, medical and sports stories as a writer, editor and producer. She has written for the health section of "The Washington Post," a Fairfax County stewardship publication and a biopharmaceutical newsletter. Ochs has a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Ohio University, Athens.