Kids Recurrent Chest Infections

What are Paediatric Chest Infections?

A chest infection (or lower respiratory tract infection) in children affects the lungs and airways.

It is common for children to have between 8 and 10 respiratory infections every year, but recurring infections can be an indication of a compromised immune system or a more serious condition.

Premature (neonatal) babies are particularly at risk because they have sensitive and underdeveloped immune systems.

Anatomy of Chest Infections in Children

During a child's chest infection the airways and air sacs in the lungs become inflamed and swollen, causing a buildup of fluids (pus and mucus).

Where does Chest Infections affect you?

Childhood Chest infections can cause pain and discomfort for sufferers. Chest pain, sore throat, and headaches are all common side effects of an infection.

What Causes of Chest Infections in Kids?

Chest infections are contagious and normally spread by the coughing or sneezing of an infected person. Good hygiene and keeping an infant away from friends and family members who are sick can help prevent chest infections.

Prematurity and age are significant factors in the development of chest infections. Other causes include:

  • Immunodeficiency
  • Underdeveloped or damaged lungs
  • Parents who are smokers

Recurrent chest infections may indicate the presence of a more serious, underlying condition. For example, chronic lung disease or cystic fibrosis.

What are Symptoms of Paediatric Chest Infections?

There are various symptoms associated with chest infections including:

  • Persistent wet sounding cough
  • Coughing up yellow, brown, or green mucus
  • Breathlessness or rapid and shallow breathing
  • Fever (high temperature)
  • Increased heart rate
  • Loss of appetite

Coughing up blood is another sign of infection. If blood appears in mucus or due to a cough parents should contact their GP or emergency services immediately.

Paedicatric Chest Infections Diagnosis

The GP will need to question the parents about the infant's medical history and perform a physical examination.

If an infant has suffered from recurring chest infections the GP or specialist will also want to check how frequently the condition has occurred and what treatment has been administered in previous cases.

Diagnosing the cause of recurring infections can be challenging. The Doctor will need to be alerted of any and all symptoms. To help with diagnosis they may also order:

  • Blood tests (blood count and blood culture)
  • Urine tests
  • Skin or mucus swabs
  • Chest x-rays

What Are the Stages of Chest Infections?

Typically, chest infections are caused by either:

  • Pneumonia (usually caused by bacteria and affects the small air sacs in the lungs)
  • Bronchitis (usually viral and affects the larger airways of the lungs)

Why Should I Treat Childhood Chest Infections?

Most children with recurrent chest infections will not have an underlying disease. However, recurrent chest infections can be an early indication of:

Asthma
Chronic lung disease
Bronchiectasis
Cystic fibrosis

Paediatric Chest Infections Treatments

Many chest infections in children are caused by viruses and do not require treatment.

Some children will require oral antibiotics and a smaller proportion may require admission to hospital.

If you are concerned about the frequency of your child's chest infections contact your GP who may refer your child for a specialist opinion.