Acute bronchitis is a short-term respiratory infection that may be referred to as a chest cold. The bronchi branch off the trachea, taking air from the outside into the lungs. In bronchitis, the bronchi become inflamed and produce more mucus.
|Bronchi of Lungs|
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Factors that may increase your risk of getting acute bronchitis include:
- Having a cold or the flu
- Contact with a person with a respiratory viral or bacterial infection
- Exposure to second-hand smoke
- Allergies or asthma
Exposures to respiratory inhalants at work, such as:
- Vegetable dusts
- Poorly functioning immune system
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests are rarely needed. The following may be recommended if the bronchitis is severe or the diagnosis is not clear:
- Blood tests
- Chest x-rays —if pneumonia or other condition is suspected
Sputum cultures to check for the presence of bacteria are rarely helpful.
Acute bronchitis can be treated with rest and medications. It can take up to a month for the cough to go away.
Your doctor may recommend:
Over-the-counter medications to relieve discomfort and reduce fever
- Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving your child aspirin.
- Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day to help make your cough more productive
- Inhalers—to improve symptoms in adults with a history of asthma
Antibiotics are not used for treatment because acute bronchitis is usually the result of a viral infection.
Avoid using cough suppressant medication. Coughing is necessary to clear mucus from your lungs. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that cough supressants not be used in children less than 2 years old. The FDA also supports not using them in children less than 4 years old.
To help reduce your chance of acute bronchitis:
- Use proper handwashing hygiene, especially if you are in contact with someone who is sick
- Avoid contact with people who have respiratory viral or bacterial infections.
- If you smoke, talk to your doctor about how you can successfully quit. Smoke weakens the lungs' resistance to infection and increases recovery time.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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a (Bronchitis, Acute; Lower Respiratory Tract Infection, Chest Cold)
American Lung Association http://www.lung.org
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org
The College of Family Physicians of Canada http://www.cfpc.ca
The Lung Association http://www.lung.ca
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