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What are paediatric chest infections?

Chest infections in children are infections that affect the throat and lungs. The two main types of paediatric chest infection are acute bronchitis, which is the common form, and pneumonia, which is much less common but far more serious. Both problems often produce thick mucus which causes the child to cough. This can lead to inflammation of the throat and cause throat pain during swallowing and coughing.

What causes chest infections in children?

Chest infections in children are usually caused by bacteria or a virus in the main airways and lungs. Chest infections can be contagious so they can be caused through coughing and sneezing. This can make them common in children who do not all have the awareness to cover their mouths or to use tissues.

What are the symptoms of chest infections in children?

Symptoms of chest infections in children include:
  • Coughing
  • Mucus production
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Throat pain
  • Chest pain

What can physiotherapy do to help children with chest infections?

Physiotherapy treatment is aimed at moving and coughing up mucus and making breathing easier for the child. Manual techniques such as percussion and vibration can be used to loosen mucus whilst positioning of the child can help to move mucus for it to be removed. If the child has an ineffective cough and is struggling to remove mucus then effective coughing techniques can be taught. If the child is not able to learn an effective coughing technique then suction can be used to remove mucus. Relaxed breathing techniques can also be taught to make breathing easier for the child.

Education for the parents or carers of the child is also important. They can be taught suction techniques and how to effectively clear the child’s chest so that the child can receive treatment whenever it is needed, rather than just when the physiotherapist is present.

In the case of paediatric pneumonia, hospital admission is likely and manual techniques and suction would be used regularly to try and remove mucus.


Chest infections are caused by bacteria or a virus and can produce thick mucus and make it difficult for the child to breathe. They are usually contagious so it is important that they are treated. Physiotherapy can help to remove mucus and make breathing easier.

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