Jun 2, 2017, 2:10:06 PM CDT Nov 20, 2023, 11:28:08 AM CST

Bronchitis in children: Home remedies for kids

When your child has a serious cough, bronchitis could be the reason. Learn about the types of bronchitis and home remedies to help your child.

Young boy wrapped in a blanket, sitting on the couch holding a stuffed animal Young boy wrapped in a blanket, sitting on the couch holding a stuffed animal

During cold and flu season, it’s possible that your child could come down with a case of bronchitis. And while the symptoms sometimes sound awful – wheezing and a deep, nagging cough that produces mucus – bronchitis in children is usually mild. Most of the time, home remedies for bronchitis in children work very well.

What is bronchitis?

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the large breathing tubes called airways or bronchi. The most common type of bronchitis in children is acute bronchitis.

How does acute bronchitis happen?

Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a virus. The symptoms usually appear after a common cold. Bronchitis in children can come on quickly, and it usually lasts between 1-3 weeks.

Less common causes of bronchitis include allergies, irritants like dust or cigarette smoke, and can be associated with asthma.

What are the symptoms of acute bronchitis?

Symptoms can vary, but the most common ones include:

  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Low-grade fever (99.6°F to 100.3°F)
  • Feeling unwell
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle aches

Your child’s cough may start out dry, and then turn into a cough that produces greenish or yellowish mucus. This mucus can further block the airway, making it difficult for your child to breathe.

Home remedies for bronchitis in children

The cough that comes with bronchitis can sound bad, but coughing is the natural way for children to clear their lungs. With time, most cases of bronchitis get better on their own.

You can also soothe your child’s symptoms with these home remedies:

  • Increase fluids. If you give your child extra fluids, it can help soothe a sore throat and make the mucus in your child’s lungs easier to cough up. Try warm lemonade, soup, and warm water with lemon and honey.
  • Have them rest in an upright position. Rest can help children regain their health. But congestion may make it more difficult to breathe and sleep. Elevating the head of your child’s bed by placing a few pillows under the top of the mattress may help your child breathe – and rest – more easily.
  • Use heat on their chest. If your child’s cough hurts, put a warm compress on their chest.
  • Add some humidity. A steamy bath or shower may help your child’s breathing. Adding a cool mist humidifier in their room overnight can also help.
  • Eliminate irritants. Keep your child away from smoke. Smoke can irritate already sore lungs and slow the healing process. It’s also important to keep your child from breathing in a lot of dust, pollen or chemicals.
  • Give over-the-counter medications with care. To help with pain or fever, children over the age of 6 may need an over-the-counter medication like acetaminophen. Be sure to follow the directions carefully for how much to give your child and how often. And if your child is younger than 6, it’s important to contact your child’s doctor before you give them an over-the-counter medication. Learn more about why over-the-counter medicines are not always right for young children.

Is it bronchitis or something else?

Sometimes, a bronchitis cough can be a symptom of something more serious like pneumonia.

Here are some symptoms that mean it’s time to contact your doctor.

  • A fever over 100 degrees for a week
  • Chest pain and significant shortness of breath
  • Coughing or wheezing for longer than four weeks
  • Coughing up bloody mucus
  • Significant weakness that does not improve
  • If your child has asthma and gets bronchitis

Learn more

Learn more about common causes of coughs in children and about the Children's Health pulmonology programs and services.

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