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Home > Health Library > Acute Bronchitis
Bronchitis means that the tubes that carry air to the lungs (the bronchial tubes) are inflamed and irritated. When this happens, the bronchial tubes swell and produce mucus. This makes you cough.
There are two types of bronchitis:
Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a virus. Often a person gets it a few days after having an upper respiratory tract infection such as a cold or the flu. Sometimes acute bronchitis is caused by bacteria.
Acute bronchitis also can be caused by breathing in things that irritate the bronchial tubes, such as smoke.
The most common symptom of acute bronchitis is a cough that usually is dry and hacking at first. After a few days, the cough may bring up mucus. You may have a low fever and feel tired.
Most people get better in 2 to 3 weeks. But some people have a cough for more than 4 weeks.
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and examine you. This usually gives the doctor enough information to find out if you have acute bronchitis.
In some cases, you may need a chest X-ray or other tests. These tests are to make sure that you don't have pneumonia, whooping cough, or another lung problem. This is especially true if you've had bronchitis for a few weeks and aren't getting better. More testing also may be needed for babies, older adults, and people who have lung disease (such as asthma or COPD) or other health problems.
Most people can treat symptoms of acute bronchitis at home. They don't need antibiotics or other prescription medicines. Antibiotics don't help with viral bronchitis. And even bronchitis caused by bacteria will usually go away on its own.
If you have signs of bronchitis and have heart or lung disease (such as heart failure, asthma, or COPD) or another serious health problem, talk to your doctor right away. You may need treatment with antibiotics or medicines to help with your breathing. Early treatment may prevent problems, such as pneumonia or repeated cases of acute bronchitis caused by bacteria.
When you have acute bronchitis, there are things you can do to feel better.
Cough drops won't stop your cough, but they may make your throat feel better.
The heat and moisture can help keep mucus in your airways moist so you can cough it out easily.
This may include acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin to relieve fever and body aches.
Don't give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
Cough suppressants may help you to stop coughing. Expectorants can help you bring up mucus when you cough.
Cough medicines may not be safe for young children or for people who have certain health problems.
Current as of:
March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineJohn Pope MD - PediatricsMartin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
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