Bronchitis and Pneumonia
Children in child care settings are often sick with upper respiratory infections. The rates of these infections are higher in the winter months, although they can occur any time of the year. Some side effects of upper respiratory infections, such as colds or flu, are bronchitis and pneumonia.
What is the difference between bronchitis and pneumonia?
Bronchitis is most often a bacterial or viral infection that causes swelling of the tubes (bronchioles) leading to the lungs. Pneumonia is an acute or chronic disease marked by inflammation of the lungs and is caused by viruses, bacteria, other organisms and sometimes by physical or chemical irritants. A diagnosis of “double pneumonia” means both lungs have been affected. “Walking pneumonia” means that the illness is not serious enough to require hospitalization of the child or adult; it is generally caused by a germ called mycoplasma. The symptoms of bronchitis and pneumonia are similar and may include fever, headache, cough that brings up thick green or yellow mucus, chills, looking ill and tired, fast, noisy, or difficulty breathing, wheezing, tightness or pain in the chest. Pneumonia that is deep in the lungs may also cause abdominal pain and vomiting. Any child, especially young infants, with these symptoms should be seen by a health care provider.
How serious are bronchitis and pneumonia?
Both conditions are more serious if a child has a chronic health condition or if the condition is caused by a bacteria, in which case antibiotics are the treatment of choice. When pneumonia is caused by bacteria, an infected child usually becomes sick relatively quickly and experiences the sudden onset of high fever and rapid breathing When these infections are caused by a virus, such as RSV, adenovirous, or influenza, antibiotics will not help and most often the infection will have to run its course. Bronchitis and pneumonia both require the care and supervision of a health care professional, as children with pneumonia can become sick enough to require hospitalization.
Reprinted with the permission of the California Childcare Health Program.
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