Many of the symptoms of bronchitis in children are the same as the symptoms in adults. Coughing, a fever or chills, and a sore throat can all be present in children of any age. One of the most telltale signs of bronchitis is mucus in the lungs brought up by coughing fits.
This classic bronchitis symptom can be difficult to recognize as bronchitis in children because those who are young will often swallow the mucus instead of spitting it out. The presence of greenish or yellow mucus warrants a trip to the doctor, though, as it can indicate bronchitis that is beginning to turn into the more dangerous pneumonia. The youngest cannot speak to tell their parents of their symptoms, often making diagnosis difficult. Coughs that sound phlegm-filled or give a rattling sound with each breath can indicate the presence of mucus in the lungs. Breathing can be wheezy and sound labored.
The presence of a fever, chills, or body aches that come with bronchitis in children can make them restless and irritable, and they may have difficulty getting to sleep. Coughing can become worse when lying down to sleep at night or for naps as well as while getting up in the morning, as mucus can settle into the lungs while lying horizontally. This can also result in waking up more times during the night than normal. In some cases, cough syrup can be given to older children in order to make severe sleeplessness more tolerable.
The cough and phlegm typical of bronchitis in children are usually accompanied by many of the symptoms of the common cold, including a runny nose, aching body, and sore throat. These symptoms typically manifest themselves before the cough. Many children will lose their appetites, and either not eat as much as normal, or refuse to eat at all. A child may want to drink more than usual, though, to try to soothe the discomfort in the throat and dry feeling in the chest.
Some individuals are more susceptible to bronchitis in children than others. Those with parents or family members that continuously expose them to cigarette smoke can also make them prone to chronic bronchitis, characterized by a cough and discomfort that last more than five to 14 days. Those with allergies or heart and sinus problems can be more susceptible, and children who were born prematurely can also be vulnerable to the respiratory infections that cause bronchitis. Those children who contract chronic bronchitis that goes undiagnosed can suffer damage to their respiratory systems that can later develop into asthma.