This is the medical speciality which deals with the diagnosis, treatment and supervision of children with diseases of the respiratory system, i.e. the lungs, pleura (the membrane which covers the walls of the chest cavity and lungs) and the mediastinum (the space in the chest cavity between the pleura, spinal column and sternum), from birth until they are 21 years old.
Paediatric respiratory medicine is the specialty focusing on treating diseases and problems in the respiratory system of children. A respiratory paediatrician will have expertise in managing and treating acute and chronic respiratory conditions, including the diagnosis, treatment and follow-up support, of babies, infants, children and young people up to the age of 16.
Types of paediatric respiratory conditions
There are many conditions that can affect a child’s breathing or their respiratory system. Here is a summary of some of the more common conditions that would be treated by a paediatric respiratory consultant:
Asthma in children
Asthma is a condition that causes the respiratory airways to become inflamed. The inflammation can be a result of numerous things, such as allergies to things such as pollen, mould, dust and pets. Other irritants such as smoke, pollution, and having a cold or flu can also trigger inflammation. Asthma affects around 1 in 11 children in the UK.
Bronchiolitis is a condition when the bronchioles become inflamed. It is the most common condition to affect a child’s lower respiratory tract during the first year of life, and is more common in winter. The condition usually first presents as a cough, or wheeziness, and may be misdiagnosed as a cough.
Similar to bronchiolitis, bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchi, the branch-like medium sized airways in the lungs. It is often caused by a viral infection, and first presents as wheezing and/or a cough.
Croup is a virus affecting the trachea and voicebox, and will affect the child’s voice, causing a barking-like sound. The symptoms usually start out as similar to a cold, and may be misdiagnosed.
A genetic condition that causes sticky mucus to build up on the lungs and digestive system, leading to lung infections, and to affect the digestive system, meaning food is not absorbed as it should be.
Pneumonia in children
Also known as a chest infection, pneumonia is when the lungs become inflamed due to a viral infection.
Tubercolosis in children
TB is a disease that affects the lungs, with children being more at risk due to an underdeveloped immune system. TB is not common in the UK, and life-threatening forms of the disease are less common.
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