Bronchitis is inflammation of the
breathing tubes. These airways are called bronchi. This inflammation causes increased
mucus production and other changes. There are several different types of bronchitis. But
the most common are acute and chronic. Acute bronchitis may also be called a chest
Most symptoms of acute bronchitis last for up to 2 weeks. The cough can last for up to 8 weeks in some people. Chronic bronchitis lasts a long time. It is more common among smokers.
Acute bronchitis is often caused by
a viral infection. This is most often the same viruses that cause colds and the flu. It
may also be caused by a bacterial infection. Or by physical or chemical agents that are
breathed in. These may include dusts, allergens, and strong fumes, including those from
chemical cleaning compounds or tobacco smoke.
Acute bronchitis may come after a common cold or other viral infections in the upper respiratory tract. It may also occur in people with chronic sinusitis, allergies, or those with enlarged tonsils and adenoids. It can be serious in people with lung or heart diseases. Pneumonia is a complication that can follow bronchitis.
The following are the most common symptoms of acute bronchitis. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of acute bronchitis
may look like other conditions or health problems. Talk with a healthcare provider for a
Healthcare providers can often
diagnose acute bronchitis by taking a health history and doing a physical exam. Tests
may be done to rule out other diseases such as pneumonia or asthma. Any of these tests
may be used to help confirm a diagnosis:
Acute bronchitis is often mild and
does not cause complications. The symptoms often resolve on their own and lung function
goes back to normal.
In most cases, antibiotics are not
needed to treat acute bronchitis. That’s because most of the infections are caused by
viruses. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses. If it has progressed to
pneumonia, then antibiotics may be needed.
Treatment is aimed at treating the symptoms, and may include:
Don't use antihistamines. They dry
up the secretions and can make the cough worse.
Acute bronchitis can worsen and
progress to chronic bronchitis or pneumonia. If this happens, a different treatment may
Acute bronchitis can’t always be
prevented. But there are shots you can get to prevent its complications, such as
Check with your healthcare provider
about getting the flu and pneumococcal shots. Getting a flu shot every year can help
prevent both the flu and pneumonia. The pneumococcal shot can protect you from a common
form of bacterial pneumonia. There are now 2 different pneumococcal vaccines available.
You may need to get both if you are age 65 or older. Talk with your healthcare
Anyone can get pneumococcal disease. But those at the highest risk
are children younger than age 2, adults ages 65 and older, people with certain health
conditions, and smokers.
Talk with your healthcare provider and your child’s provider about
the pneumococcal vaccine. The CDC recommends the vaccine for all children younger than 2
years old and all adults age 65 or older.
Most often, bronchitis goes away on
its own. If your symptoms get worse or don’t get better over time, call your healthcare
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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