Acute bronchitis

Acute bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchi, the tubes that carry air to the lungs. This inflammation causes the tissue in the bronchi to swell and increases mucus secretion, making it more difficult to breathe. Acute bronchitis is usually accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Cough with mucus
  • Runny nose that starts a few days before the chest congestion
  • Feeling run-down or tired
  • Sore ribs from coughing
  • Wheezing

Causes and triggers

While acute bronchitis is usually caused by a virus (often the same viruses that cause the common cold), it can occasionally be caused by a bacterial infection. Exposure to irritating particles in the air can also cause acute bronchitis. The following factors increase the risk of developing this illness:

  • Close contact with an individual who is already infected
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke, dust, or air pollution

Treatment

Acute bronchitis usually goes away on its own within a few weeks. To make you more comfortable and speed up the recovery process, the following measures are recommended:

  • Rest
  • Try to cough up the mucus
  • Drink plenty of clear fluids
  • Do a nasal rinse (ask your health care professional for instructions)
  • Use a humidifier or steam to help clear the airway

The infection usually lasts between 3 and 10 days, but the coughing and mucus secretion may go on for several weeks. Antibiotics are not generally used to treat acute bronchitis.

Here are a few measures to help prevent acute bronchitis:

  • Wash your hands regularly to reduce exposure to viruses and bacteria
  • Get a flu shot every year
  • Speak to your health care professional to see if the pneumococcal vaccine is right for you
  • Avoid cigarette smoke

When should I see a medical professional?

  • If you have a high fever, or pain in your chest
  • If you have trouble breathing
  • If you cough up blood or bad-tasting mucus
  • If your symptoms last more than 3 weeks

For more information:

The Canadian Lung Association

www.lung.ca

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