Acute bronchitis is an inflammation of the lung's air passages
(bronchial tubes). Acute bronchitis comes on suddenly and typically
lasts only a short time. The usual cause is an infection, most often
viral but sometimes bacterial. It may also be caused by chemical
irritants. Often bronchitis will begin with a cold virus that
affects the nose and throat and then spreads into the deeper
airways. Severe cases of bronchitis, if not treated, can lead to
pneumonia. Risk increases with chronic respiratory disease, smoking,
poor general health with lowered resistance, or in the elderly and
SYMPTOMS MAY INCLUDE:
• Cough, usually with a great deal of mucous production
• Chest discomfort, which may be felt as pressure or a sense of
• Wheezing or shortness of breath
WHAT YOUR DOCTOR CAN DO:
• Your doctor will need to determine if the bronchitis is caused by
a bacteria or virus.
• Prescribe antibiotics for bacterial infections only.
• If the cause is a virus, treatment is focused on symptomatic
relief. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses. Overuse of
antibiotics can lead to "drug-resistant" bacteria.
• Expectorants or drugs to ease your breathing may be prescribed.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
• DO NOT smoke and avoid other irritants and pollutants.
• Maintain a nutritional diet, get plenty of rest, and increase your
intake of fluids, especially water and other clear liquids.
• You can increase air moisture with hot showers or cool-mist
humidifiers. Moisture helps to thin secretions, making them easier
to cough up. Expectorants may also help thin mucus. Talk to your
doctor before taking cough suppressants. Generally, they are used
for non-productive coughs. If your cough is productive
(mucous-producing), it is important to cough it up rather than trap
it in your lungs.
• Prevention includes frequent handwashing; using disposable
tissues; avoiding close contact with persons who have colds and
other respiratory infections; not smoking; and avoiding inhaled
irritants, including second-hand smoke.
• Talk to your doctor about the benefits of a yearly flu shot.
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT:
• Acute bronchitis is usually over in about 1-2 weeks, although it
depends on your general state of health and how early you started
treatment. The cough may last for several weeks after all other
symptoms have disappeared.
• Complications may include pneumonia, chronic respiratory
infection, secondary bacterial bronchitis, or pleurisy (inflammation
of the lining of the lungs).
CALL 1061 OR SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL
ASSISTANCE If you have symptoms of acute bronchitis; if,
during treatment, you experience shortness of breath; high fever;
thick or discolored sputum; or if you are coughing up blood.