Acute bronchitis is inflammation, or swelling, of one or more bronchi. Bronchi are the branches of the main windpipe that carry oxygen into the lungs.
Acute bronchitis is often caused by an infection from virus or bacteria. The infection irritates the lining of the air passages called bronchi. This causes the symptoms of bronchitis.
The most common cause of acute bronchitis is a viral infection such as the flu. Sometimes bacteria can cause this disease as well. Breathing air that contains irritants, such as chemical fumes, acid fumes, dust or smoke, increases the risk of the disease.
Acute bronchitis causes:
A medical history and physical exam are usually enough to diagnose this infection. A chest X-ray may be done to check for possible pneumonia, but pneumonia is not a common result from acute bronchitis. A person may be asked to give a sample of the mucus, called sputum, that he or she coughs up to be examined by the laboratory.
A person can decrease the risk for getting acute bronchitis by:
Acute bronchitis may take up to 8 weeks to resolve. Once the infection is over, there are generally no long-term effects. Some persons, especially smokers, are more likely to develop repeated bouts of acute bronchitis.
Acute bronchitis is often catching. A person who has symptoms of bronchitis should cover the mouth when coughing Both the ill person and anyone who cares for him or her should also avoid sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses, and wash their hands frequently.
Treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms and may include the following:
Some people have allergic reactions to medicines or may get an upset stomach from them. Antibiotics may cause diarrhea as well.
Once the person feels better, he or she is free to return to regular activities.
Once the person has recovered, no further monitoring is required unless there are repeated bouts of acute bronchitis or other serious medical problems. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the doctor.
Author:Adam Brochert, MD
Editor:Crist, Gayle P., MS, BA
Reviewer:Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
Conn's Current Therapy, 1999, Rakel et al