Dr Mark Rosenthal


Consultant in Paediatric Respiratory Medicine

also specialist in Food Allergies & Disorders of Sleep

A | A | A

T: 0207 351 8832

E: s.harvey@rbht.nhs.uk

A:The Royal Brompton Hospital, London, SW3 6NP

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Persistent bacterial bronchitis is one of the possible causes of chronic coughing in children. If your child has been diagnosed with this condition then you might want to learn a bit more about it.

What is Persistent Bacterial Bronchitis?Understanding the Terms

Getting a diagnosis of persistent bacterial bronchitis can be confusing if you’re not sure what the terms mean. It might help to understand the following definitions.

  • Persistent: a condition that lasts for a long time. A cough is usually considered chronic if it lasts for more than 4 weeks.
  • Bacterial: the infection is caused by bacteria rather than a virus. This means that we should be able to treat it using antibiotics.
  • Bronchitis: the infection is located in the bronchial tubes or bronchi. These are the tubes that connect your windpipe to your lungs. After entering the lungs, they branch into smaller tubes called bronchioles. Bronchitis refers to any infection that is in the bronchi rather than other parts of the respiratory system.

Causes of Persistent Bacterial Bronchitis

Persistent bacterial bronchitis occurs when harmful bacteria grow inside the bronchial tubes. It isn’t fully understood why this happens but it may be linked to having frequent coughs and colds that have irritated the airways, making them more vulnerable to bacterial infections. Children who have other health problems with their airways can also be more likely to develop persistent bacterial bronchitis.

Symptoms of Persistent Bacterial Bronchitis

The main symptom of bronchitis is a wet sounding cough. The sound comes from excess mucus in the airways. Some children may bring up mucus when they are coughing. You might also hear some wheezing or whistling sounds, so it can sound a lot like an asthmatic cough. However, bronchitis causes a wetter cough and it will respond to different treatments. Children with persistent bacterial bronchitis can cough at any time of the day or during the night. The cough will last for at least four weeks without treatment.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If your child has a persistent cough then it is a good idea to visit a doctor to find out the cause. Experienced respiratory specialists like Dr Mark Rosenthal will often be able to diagnose the problem by asking questions about the symptoms and your child’s medical history. Additional tests may sometimes be needed to rule out other cases and a sample of mucus may be taken. The mucus can be tested to confirm that the infection is bacterial or to check which antibiotics will be effective against it.

Most cases of persistent bacterial bronchitis in children should improve after a course of antibiotics. Your child will usually need to take the medication regularly for a couple of weeks. Getting rid of the cough and eliminating the bacteria that caused it should help your child to feel a lot better. However, it is important to be aware that about 40% of children who are affected by this condition will get it again in the future. You can come back to see Dr Mark Rosenthal if you notice another persistent cough in the future.

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