What are the Most Common Breathing Diagnoses in Children

Child being diagnosed with a pulmonary condition

The place where germs are most likely to enter the body is through the airways of the pulmonary system. This is why it is no surprise that there are so many different kinds of airway infections, especially in children. The most common pulmonary diagnoses in children range from seasonal infections like the common cold and flu to chronic conditions like asthma or chronic sinusitis. Many of these pulmonary diseases present similarly in children. However, each pulmonary disease requires a different treatment plan.


Children who have pediatric asthma experience chronic inflammation of the airways that prevents proper breathing. This disease affects over six million children in the United States. Asthma can be managed with proper monitoring and medication. Children with asthma have symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. Medications for treatment include emergency bronchodilator inhalers for short-term relief and controller inhaled corticosteroids for long-term control that reduce inflammation in the form of inhalers or pills.


Sinusitis is inflammation of the tissue that lines the sinuses and can lead to facial pain/pressure, congestion, coughing, runny nose, and post-nasal drip. This is more commonly known as a sinus infection where fluid build-up behind the nose and eye leads to an infection. This is usually paired with a cold or flu, and children can experience symptoms longer than adults. Treatment includes over-the-counter decongestants, neti pots, and an antibiotic in cases of bacterial infections.


Influenza, or the flu, is typically a non-severe pulmonary disease. Children and adults will all likely experience multiple occurrences of influenza in their lives. Typically, influenza lasts for five to seven days with symptoms such as a runny nose, cough, fever, fatigue, and muscle soreness. Physicians can diagnose and treat influenza with antibiotics over the course of 1-2 weeks. More severe cases and complications can occur and result in pneumonia. Influenza is mitigated by the availability of annual flu vaccines, which are recommended for children aged six months and older.


Bronchitis occurs when there is inflammation in the lungs, typically as a symptom of another pulmonary disease/virus related to the cold or flu. Bronchitis primarily results in constant coughing but can also include a runny nose, congestion, fever, chills, fatigue, wheezing, and sore throat as symptoms. Bronchitis is often seen in children with chronic pulmonary diseases like asthma, allergies, or chronic sinusitis.

​The Common Cold

Colds are when viruses inflame the lining of the nose and throat. Most colds are caused by rhinoviruses and are typically spread when kids come in contact with someone else who is infected. Colds are prevalent in the winter season at schools and daycares when kids are interacting with their classmates, teachers, and families. Cold symptoms can include congestion, a runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, fever, chills, and fatigue. There is no treatment for the common cold, but parents can consider over-the-counter medicines, neti pots, and humidifiers to supplement rest and fluids for their children.


Strep throat is caused by a bacterial infection (Streptococcus pyogenes) that makes your throat feel scratchy and sore. Strep throat makes up a small percentage of sore throats in kids. Symptoms of strep include throat pain, painful swallowing, swollen tonsils/lymph nodes, fever, and headache. Since sore throat is common in infectious respiratory illnesses, strep can be identified by swollen lymph glands, a sore throat longer than 2 days, rashes, and problems breathing/swallowing.


Croup is the result of viral infections that cause swelling of childrens’ airways and is usually identified by a “barking” cough. Symptoms include typical cold symptoms such as a runny nose and fever but are also specific to the upper airways with irritation of the larynx and trachea causing the barking cough. Stridor, the release of a high-pitched noise when breathing in, can also be a symptom of croup. Croup is often mild and can be treated at home with fever medicine, humidifiers, and even breathing in the cool air outside. 

Pediatric Pulmonary Diseases

Not all pediatric pulmonary diseases require the same level of medical attention. Some pediatric pulmonary diseases like influenza and the common cold are typically acute and resolve within a week’s time. Other diseases like asthma and pulmonary hypertension will require medical intervention, can persist throughout adulthood, and may have varying degrees of severity.

If you have concerns about your child’s pulmonary health or breathing, it is important to seek medical attention. Healthcare providers and physicians at Newport Children’s Medical Group are here to help develop a comprehensive treatment plan for your child. Please schedule an appointment with Dr. Reda at Newport Children’s Medical Group. For all medical emergencies, please contact 911 immediately.