Bronchiectasis in children

Treatment for bronchiectasis in children

The main aims for treatment are to move mucus out of the lungs and to treat any infection quickly. 

Antibiotics

Antibiotics are used to treat infections. Your child may have to take them for longer than usual (2 weeks or more) when they have an infection. If your child keeps getting infections then your doctor might recommend that they take a low dose of antibiotics all the time.

If your child has to take a lot of antibiotics they may use a nebuliser. A nebuliser makes the medicine into a mist that is breathed in through a face mask. It helps direct the medicine into your child’s airways.

Your child may be given an inhaler to help relax and open their airways.

Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy is one of the most important ways of managing bronchiectasis in children. A physiotherapist will show you how to do it.

Physiotherapy helps to clear mucus that is too far down to cough up. This helps to clear the chest of infection and helps to prevent further damage. You carry on doing it even if your child’s cough goes away.

Your child’s physiotherapist may use inhaled saline to help clear mucus. Parents have told us that when their children take a saline solution through a nebuliser before each session of physiotherapy, it’s helped.

It can help to read aloud to your child or to have the TV, an audio book or some music on while doing the physiotherapy. Try to make it into close time with your child, not just a chore.

Both my boys live with bronchiectasis and I do physio with them twice a day. If they’re not well, they need physio 3 times a day.

If they get really bad, then they need to go to hospital and they get really intense physio.

My elder boy took to physio quite well. There’s lots of blowing exercises – such as blowing bubbles – and we make it fun. After a set of 10 blows, I hold him tight to feel his chest and he has a good cough to get rid of his mucus.

My younger boy needs a bit more coaxing. He got a bit upset at first, especially if he’s having physio in hospital. But it doesn’t hurt them and it’s absolutely worth it to get the mucus out.

I found it tricky to do at first, but you get used to it. I’d say to anyone: persevere – it makes such a difference!”

Joanne, whose boys are 10 and 4

What else can I do to help my child?

  • Being active helps clear the lungs of excess mucus. Parents have found that bouncing on a trampoline helps their child.
     
  • Make sure they have a healthy diet. Fighting infection and coughing can use up your child’s energy so they may need more food than usual. Their immune system will need plenty of protein and vitamins to fight infection. The NHS Choices website has useful info about feeding your child.
     
  • Make sure they have enough to drink. This keeps mucus thin and makes it easier to cough up.
     
  • Don’t smoke or let anyone else smoke around your child. Being exposed to second hand smoke increases your child’s risk of picking up an infection.
     
  • Make sure your child has the flu jab and keep their other vaccinations up to date.  Some health centres will not give vaccinations if your child is on antibiotics. You might need to explain that your child is on antibiotics regularly because of their bronchiectasis.

Last medically reviewed: September 2016. Due for review: September 2019

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.