Acute bronchitis is a short-term lung infection. Airways leading to the lungs become inflamed and make more phlegm than normal. This causes severe coughing.
Bronchi of Lungs
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Viruses are the most common cause of acute bronchitis. Bacteria can also cause it, but this is not as common.
Things that raise the risk are:
- Being around others who are sick
- Smoking, or being near others who smoke
Working with certain substances that can cause irritation of airways such as:
- Dusts from farming
- Having a weak immune system
Acute bronchitis can cause:
- Breathing problems
- Slight fever
- Sore throat
- Stuffy nose
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and past health. A physical exam may be done. Diagnosis is often based on symptoms.
An infection caused by a virus will usually go away on its own within a week. The cough can last for up to a month.
The goal of treatment is to ease symptoms. It includes:
- Drinking more fluids
- Medicines to lower fever and manage coughing
- Inhalers to open airways and ease breathing
An infection caused by bacteria will also need antibiotics.
The risk of acute bronchitis can be lowered by:
- Washing hands often
- Staying away from sick people
- Not smoking
About antibiotic use and resistance. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/getsmart/community/about/index.html. Accessed February 2, 2021.
Acute bronchitis. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/acute-bronchitis. . Accessed February 2, 2021.
Acute bronchitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/acute-bronchitis. Accessed February 2, 2021.
Smith SM, Fahey T, Smucny J, Becker LA. Antibiotics for acute bronchitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;6:CD000245.
Last reviewed February 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 2/2/2021