Bronchitis is one of the commonest chest ailments which may occur in the nursery. It is an inflammation of the air tubes of the lungs. In its commonest form it affects the large bronchi which are formed by the division of the windpipe in the upper part of the chest. In its more severe form the inflammation may be spread downwards to the microscopic bronchi of the lungs, producing what is called capillary bronchitis, or broncho-pneumonia. Delicate or fragile children are more liable to attacks of bronchitis in winter, whilst bronchitis is one of the most common serious ailments which affect rickety children. A common cause of the condition is the spreading downwards of a severe cold from the nose and throat passages, a very usual occurrence during the winter and early spring.
Some children seem peculiarly susceptible to bronchial colds, and have attacks of bronchitis regularly whenever the cold weather sets in. Whooping cough and measles are commonly associated with bronchitis, in the sense that bronchitis is an almost inevitable complication of these fevers in the case of delicate children. With care, however, bronchitis in the nursery could be prevented entirely, and it is the greatest mistake any mother can make to think that a child can suffer from several attacks of bronchitis and be none the worse. Every attack weakens the constitution and vitality, and makes the child more readily liable to consumption and chronic chest ailments.
As a. general rule, bronchitis comes on suddenly. The child may show signs of a severe cold, the temperature rises, the breathing is interfered with, and a cough appears. The cough is at first dry, but later becomes moist, and some expectoration may be present. Restlessness and discomfort are sometimes very distressing symptoms, and the face may become livid from interference with breathing. Ordinary bronchitis generally lasts about a week or ten days. The risk of pneumonia must be carefully guarded against. Otherwise, the illness may last for a long time, and, of course, is more serious than simple bronchitis.
The child must be put to bed at once in a well-ventilated room, with a temperature of 6o°. Good nursing is most important, and any carelessness may have serious results, especially in the case of infants. If the cough is dry, a bronchitis kettle should be used to make the air of the room moist. The great danger with amateurs is that the air is made too moist, so that it is always as well to ask the doctor for definite instructions as to how long the kettle should be kept on the fire, and whether or not he may wish the child's bed to be covered with a tent, with the spout of the kettle inside. General directions as to this cannot very well be given, because the amount of moisture required depends upon the physical signs in the chest and the state of the cough. When a bronchitis kettle is not at hand, an ordinary kettle will do, if an artificial spout is made from a roll of thin cardboard.
Poultices are most important, and these must be very well made, and changed frequently whenever they lose their heat, otherwise they will do more harm than good. A linseed meal poultice is generally used, which is mixed into a firm pa with boiling water. The making of poultices will form the subject of a subsequent article on nursing. It is most important to keep up the strength of the child, especially when he begins to recover, so as to guard against permanent chest weakness. In the early stages milk, beef-tea, gruel, and chicken broths are suitable foods. During convalescence food must be as nourishing as possible. A dose of cod-liver oil and some preparation of malt are advisable. It is only by keeping up the child's general health afterwards that further attacks of bronchitis can be prevented. The mother who follows carefully the directions as to child management, diet, hygiene, etc., given in this section will gradually acquire a knowledge of the subject. Thus she will be enabled to prevent bronchitis and all other winter ailments from appearing in her nursery.