Acute Bronchitis

A comprehensive guide to understanding acute bronchitis. Learn about its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.

Understanding Acute Bronchitis

What is Acute Bronchitis?

Acute bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchi, the large airways in the lungs. This condition starts suddenly and is commonly referred to as a chest cold. It results from the inflammation and irritation of the lining of these large airways, causing noisy breathing and excessive mucus production.

Types of Bronchitis

Bronchitis can be categorized into acute and chronic types. Acute bronchitis is temporary and usually resolves within 10 to 14 days. Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, lasts for an extended period and requires ongoing medical attention.

Causes of Acute Bronchitis

Acute bronchitis is primarily caused by viral infections but can also be triggered by bacteria, allergens, and environmental pollutants such as dust, fumes, and chemicals. Smokers and people with existing lung conditions are more susceptible to acute bronchitis.

Symptoms of Acute Bronchitis

The symptoms of acute bronchitis can vary from person to person. Common symptoms include:

  • Runny nose
  • Malaise
  • Chills
  • Slight fever
  • Back and muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • Wheezing
  • Dry, nonproductive cough early on
  • Abundant mucus-filled cough at later stages
  • Shortness of breath


Diagnosis involves a medical history review, physical examination, and various tests such as Chest X-rays, Arterial Blood Gas, Pulse Oximetry, and cultures of nasal discharge and sputum. These tests help rule out other conditions like pneumonia and asthma.

Treatment Options

Treatment for acute bronchitis focuses on symptom relief and may include:

  • Analgesics like acetaminophen for fever and discomfort
  • Increased humidity through the use of a humidifier
  • Avoiding antihistamines as they can worsen the cough
  • Cough medicine
  • Increased fluid intake
  • Smoking cessation and avoiding secondhand smoke

Antibiotics are generally not recommended unless the condition has progressed to pneumonia.

Acute bronchitis is a common but manageable condition. Complete recovery is usually possible within 10 to 14 days, although the cough may last longer for smokers. Repeated episodes may indicate chronic bronchitis or other underlying lung disorders.

For more information, consult your health care provider.

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