Children’s Common Respiratory Diseases

While the most common respiratory diseases in children and adults are colds and flu, there are other lung diseases that children are also vulnerable to.

One of these is bronchitis. The bronchial tubes transport the air we inhale to the air sacs in our lungs. Here oxygen is absorbed into the bloodstreams. If these tubes become infected, we have bronchitis. Bronchitis often follows a cold and is identified by a dry, hacking cough. The cough usually lasts from four to six weeks. Bronchitis is generally treated with over the counter cough medicines to control the cough and is not contagious.

When the air sacs in the lungs become infected, the result is pneumonia or pneumonitis. The illness is the same but pneumonitis refers to a small area of infection with mild symptoms whereas pneumonia involves a large area of infection with more severe symptoms. There are many types of pneumonias.

One is caused by a virus and is so mild that the person has only a mild cough and low fever. This is called walking pneumonia.

Symptoms of pneumonia are similar to cold and flu symptoms. There is a cough accompanied by a high fever. The child generally does not feel well, is tired and has no appetite. Pneumonia is not contagious and is usually treated with antibiotics.

A respiratory infection that invokes fear when it is discovered in a child is tuberculosis. However, these fears are unfounded. There are two types of tuberculosis: primary and secondary. Primary tuberculosis occurs in children while adults contract secondary tuberculosis.

Childhood tuberculosis is not at all contagious. In fact, the child’s body may be infected with the tuberculosis germ but may heal by itself due to the action of the immune system. No one including the child will be aware of the problem. However, if this happens the child will become allergic to the tubercle bacillus and test positive on a skin test. Therefore, it is very important, if a child does test positive, to follow with a chest x ray.

In the event primary tuberculosis does require treatment, today’s medications are so effective that a child can usually return to school within two to five days without endangering others.

Tuberculosis has been on the decrease in the United States for the past forty to fifty years. It is now found mostly in those regions that are near Mexico.

Sometimes an infection of the thin outer skin of the lungs, known as   pleurisy , follows as a complication of pneumonia or tuberculosis. However,  pleurisy  can also be caused by a virus.

Symptoms of  pleurisy  are severe chest pain, high fever and sometimes an outpouring of fluid between the lung and the chest wall. This outpouring is called pleural effusion. Intensive treatment is necessary whenever effusion takes place.

However, the  pleurisy  that is caused by a virus is hardly ever accompanied by effusion. But it can result in a severe, constricting chest pain. Because of the chest pain involved, this type of  pleurisy  is often referred to as the grippe or the devil’s grippe.

While very painful, it runs it course in seven to fourteen days. Antibiotic treatment is not necessary.