Acute Bronchitis

General Illness Information

Common Name:

Medical Term: None Specified

Description: Infection or acute inflammation of the lung air passages (Bronchi, bronchioles) of sudden onset and short duration.

Causes: Infection from one of many respiratory viruses. Most cases of acute bronchitis begin with a cold virus in the nose and throat that spreads to the airways. A secondary bacterial infection is common. Infectious bronchitis can also be caused by bacteria-like organisms Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Chlamydia.-usually in young adults.

Lung inflammation from breathing air that contains irritants, such as chemical fumes (ammonia), acid fumes, or environmental irritants such as ozone and nitrogen dioxide, dust or smoke.


  • Avoid close contact with persons who have bronchitis or upper respiratory infections.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • If you work with chemicals, dust or other lung irritants, wear an appropriate face mask.

Signs & Symptoms

Acute bronchitis is often preceded by symptoms of an upper respiratory infection such as runny nose, malaise, chilliness slight fever, muscle pain and sore throat. These are then followed by the symptoms listed below:

  • Persistent cough, with or without sputum production.
  • Sputum usually discolored (yellow, greenish or brownish).
  • Low-grade fever.
  • Chest discomfort (occasional).
  • Wheezing or uncomfortable breathing (occasionally).

Risk Factors

  • Smoking.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Cold, humid weather.
  • Poor nutrition.
  • Areas with high atmospheric pollution.
  • Recent illness that has lowered resistance.
  • Elderly and very young age groups.

Diagnosis & Treatment

General Measures:

Diagnosis is usually based on the symptoms but a sputum culture may be done to check for bacterial infection.

Treatment is directed toward relieving the symptoms.

  • If you are a smoker, don’t smoke during your illness. This delays recovery and makes complications more likely.
  • Increase air moisture.
  • Take frequent hot showers.

Additional information available from the American Lung Association, 1740 Broadway, New York, NY 10019, (800) 586-4872.In Canada, contact the Canadian Lung Association at or 1-613-747-6776.


  • For minor discomfort, you may use:
  • Acetaminophen to reduce fever.
  • Non-prescription cough suppressants. Use only if your cough is non-productive (without sputum). It may be dangerous to stop a cough entirely as this traps excess mucus and irritants in bronchial tubes, leading to pneumonia and poor oxygen exchange in the lungs.

Other drugs that may be prescribed:

  • Antibiotics to fight bacterial infections.
  • Expectorants to thin mucus so it can be coughed up more easily.
  • Cough suppressants.


Rest until temperature returns to normal. Then resume normal activity gradually as symptoms improve.


No special diet. Drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of fluid each day to help thin mucus secretions so they can be coughed up more easily.

Possible Complications:

  • Pneumonia.
  • Chronic bronchitis from recurrent episodes of acute bronchitis.
  • Cough may persist for several weeks after initial improvement.
  • Pleurisy (inflammation of the lining of he lungs) (rare).


Usually curable with treatment in 1 week. Cases with complications are usually curable in 2 weeks with medication.

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