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Acute Bronchitis

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Updated April 10, 2014

Illness:

Acute Bronchitis

Season:

Year round, more common during cold and flu season (winter and early spring)

Who is Affected:

People of all ages, most commonly:

  • Following a cold or the flu
  • Smokers
  • Older adults
  • People with weakened immune systems
  • People with COPD

Causes:

  • Most commonly by viruses, such influenza (flu) or those that cause the common cold
  • Occasionally bacteria
  • Rarely chemical agents, dust or fumes

How it is Spread:

Bronchitis can be spread by coming into contact with an infected person, but it more commonly occurs following a cold or the flu that develops into bronchitis. The virus attacks the lining of the bronchial tree in the lungs causing infection, swelling and excess mucous production.

What to Expect:

  • Cough - may start dry and painful then progress to productive with yellow or green mucous
  • Sore throat
  • Pain in the chest
  • Chest congestion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Chills
  • Body aches

The cough from acute bronchitis can last for several weeks or months. However, if the cough persists and it changes in any way or you are concerned that it may not be bronchitis, you should see your healthcare provider.

Is There a Cure?:

The treatment for bronchitis consists of:

  • Rest
  • Increased fluid intake
  • Medications, including pain relievers, antiinflammatories and occasionally antibiotics
  • If you have wheezing, you may need an inhaler to help open up the airways
  • If you smoke, you should quit. This will help your lungs heal faster.

Because bronchitis is usually caused by viruses, antibiotics are rarely helpful, even if the mucous is green or yellow. They typically won't help you get better any faster unless your healthcare provider is sure the bronchitis is caused by a bacteria.

Source:

"Acute Bronchitis." American Academy of Family Physicians. Sep 08. 13 Jan 09.

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