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Acute Bronchitis - What It Is, Symptoms, Main Causes & Diagnosis



Acute bronchitis is an infection of the lung's main airways caused by inflammation of the bronchial tubes. Those affected by this ailment experience several respiratory symptoms, as oxygen flow to their lungs is restricted. Acute bronchitis can last for up to 10 days, and affected individuals may have a cough for several weeks.

Coughing is a result of the swelling of the airways of one’s lungs, which leads to the production of excess mucus within the lungs. In some cases, a bacterial infection is also responsible for acute bronchitis.

Main Causes of Acute Bronchitis

Acute bronchitis, also referred to as chest cold, is frequently caused by the same viruses that cause the common cold and influenza. A severe viral infection is one of the key factors that makes you susceptible to this ailment. 

It is a disease that generally spreads when people come in contact with a sick person and are exposed to their coughs. If you have physical contact with someone who has a cold or severe bronchitis, you are more likely to contract the virus.

Acute bronchitis can also be caused by fungi or bacteria in some cases. It can also happen to people who have allergies, chronic sinusitis or enlarged adenoids and tonsils.  

Some individuals who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which causes heartburn, are also vulnerable to the ailment. Acute bronchitis can occur due to stomach acid making its way into the bronchial tubes. 

Smokers, or those exposed to smoke frequently, are also more likely to be affected by this condition. Those who work or commute in dusty and smelly environments can also experience symptoms.

Symptoms of Acute Bronchitis to Be Aware of 

The very first signs of acute bronchitis are quite similar to those of the flu or a common cold. Generally, symptoms last three weeks in most individuals. Some of them are:

  • Acute chest pain
  • Signs of severe fatigue
  • A runny nose
  • Coughing with mucus
  • Coughing without mucus 
  • Fever ranging from mild to severe
  • Mild headaches 
  • Discomfort in one’s throat
  • Cold chills that occur frequently
  • Sneezing and wheezing
  • Muscle aches
  • Watery eyes
  • Difficulty in breathing 

These are some of the main symptoms that you should be aware of. If you witness multiple of them, especially with coughing, the chances of acute bronchitis may be high.

Acute bronchitis symptoms might resemble those of other ailments or medical problems. Always consult a medical professional for a diagnosis. 

Diagnosis of Acute Bronchitis 

A medical history and physical exam by a healthcare professional may often identify acute bronchitis. Testing could be carried out to check for conditions like pneumonia or asthma. Additionally, there may be diagnostic steps such as:

A chest X-ray: It is a test that creates pictures of your internal organs, bones and tissues, including the lungs.

Arterial blood gas test: This blood test examines the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. 

Testing for pulmonary capacity: These examinations aid in determining the lungs' capacity to transport air in and out. Doctors use specialised devices for this type of test.

Treatments For Acute Bronchitis Infections

Seeking acute bronchitis treatment is very important, as untreated individuals can experience even worse symptoms. Medication is seldom used to treat this ailment. If you have the flu and your symptoms began within the last couple of days, your doctor may recommend antivirals to help you recover quicker. Antibiotics will not help you get well and do not have any significant positive effects.

Drugs and Methods Prescribed by Doctors For Acute Bronchitis 

It is quite possible that a doctor will not recommend any drugs to directly treat bronchitis. However, there are some drugs and steps that may be helpful in fighting infections and reducing symptoms. These include:

Antiviral Medications - If the flu is the root cause of your bronchitis, your doctor may advise taking an antiviral drug like Rapivab, Relenza or Tamiflu. Antiviral medications might help you feel better faster if you consume them as soon as your symptoms appear.

Anti-Inflammatories - Your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids and other drugs to treat acute bronchitis symptoms.

Cough Medicine - Antitussives, or cough suppressants, are widely available and can easily be prescribed. The ingredients benzonatate and dextromethorphan in such medications help to alleviate sore throats and severe coughing symptoms.

Bronchodilators - If you are experiencing problems in breathing, your doctor could recommend a bronchodilator. It is a type of medication that aids in the dilation of your inflamed airways and helps improve respiratory airflow.

Asthma and COPD therapy - Your doctor may prescribe supplementary drugs or breathing therapies for chronic bronchitis if you have COPD or asthma.

Air humidifiers and adequate hydration - Dry air can be particularly harmful to those with bronchitis symptoms. Some doctors suggest using air humidifiers to moisten the air in the room for better breathing. Consuming ample water is also vitally important for those who are affected by the disease.

The above-mentioned acute bronchitis treatment options should be availed only after consulting with a licensed physician. They can help to make you feel better when suffering from acute bronchitis.

Treatment Information For Children 

Children are not as capable of fighting against the viral infections that cause bronchitis as adults. Therefore, parents must proceed with additional caution whilst exposing them to treatment methods. 

  • Doctors may prescribe cough and cold medicine for children who are suffering from the ailment. For those under the age of four, the same medication may not be suitable. 
  • Children who are younger than six months can consume acetaminophen.
  • Those who are older than six months may be given Ibuprofen to alleviate symptoms.

Quick Tips For Bronchitis Prevention

  • Regularly sanitise your hands
  • Avoid smoking and breathing in smoke
  • Get the immunisations that are advised, such as the influenza shot
  • When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose


Acute bronchitis is a debilitating ailment that affects countless people around the world. It is essential to take care of your health by knowing the right treatment methods and preventive measures for it.

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