What is acute bronchitis?
Bronchitis is swelling and irritation in the air passages—that is, the tubes that connect the windpipe to the lungs. It causes swelling and irritation of the airways. With acute bronchitis you usually have a cough that produces phlegm, and pain behind the breastbone when you breathe deeply or cough.
How does it occur?
Bronchitis often occurs with viral infections of the respiratory tract, such as colds and flu. Bronchitis may also be caused by bacterial infections. It may occur with childhood illnesses such as measles and whooping cough.
Attacks are most frequent during the winter or when the level of air pollution is high.
Infants, young children, older adults, smokers, and people with heart or lung (including asthma and allergies) are most likely to get acute bronchitis.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms may include:
· A deep cough that produces yellowish or greenish phlegm
· Pain behind the breastbone when you breathe deeply or cough
· Feeling short of breath
· Sore muscles
How is it diagnosed?
Your primary healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms. You may have tests, such as:
· A test of phlegm to look for bacteria
· Chest x-ray
· Blood tests
How is it treated?
Acute bronchitis often does not require medical treatment. All you may need to do to get better in a few days is:
· Rest at home.
· Drinking more liquids (water or tea) to help you cough up mucus more easily.
If your symptoms are severe or you have other health problems (such as heart or lung disease or diabetes), you may need to take antibiotics. If you are having wheezing, you may need an inhaler medicine to make it easier to breathe.
How long will the effects last?
Most of the time acute bronchitis clears up in a few days. Your cough may slowly get better in 1 to 2 weeks.
It may take you longer to recover if:
· You are a smoker.
· You live in an area where air pollution is a problem.
· You have a heart or lung disease, including asthma.
· You have any other on-going health problems.
How can I take care of myself?
You can help yourself by:
· Following the full treatment your primary healthcare provider recommends
· Using a humidifier or steam from hot water to add moisture to the air
· Drinking plenty of liquids
· Taking cough medicine if recommended by your primary healthcare provider
· Resting in bed
· Taking aspirin or acetaminophen to reduce fever and relieve headache and muscle pain
(Check with your primary healthcare provider before you give any medicine that contains aspirin or salicylates to a child or teen. This includes medicines like baby aspirin, some cold medicines, and Pepto-Bismol. Children and teens who take aspirin are at risk for a serious illness called Reye’s syndrome.)
· Eating healthy meals
See your primary healthcare provider if:
· You have trouble breathing.
· You have a fever higher than 38.6° C (101.5° F).
· You cough up blood.
· You don’t begin to feel better in 3 days of treatment.
· You have any symptoms that concern you
How can I help prevent acute bronchitis?
To reduce your risk of getting a respiratory infection:
· Don’t smoke.
· Avoid secondhand smoke.
· Wash your hands often, especially when you are around people with colds (upper respiratory infections).
· If you have asthma or allergies, keep your symptoms under good control.
· Get regular exercise.
· Eat healthy foods.