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Bronchitis - acute


Symptoms:

The symptoms of acute bronchitis may include:

Even after acute bronchitis has cleared, you may have a dry, nagging cough that lingers for 1 to 4 weeks.

At times, it may be hard to know whether you have pneumonia or only bronchitis. If you have pneumonia, you are more likely to have a high fever and chills, feel sicker, or feel short of breath.

 
Treatment:

Most people DO NOT need antibiotics for acute bronchitis. The infection will almost always go away on its own within 1 week. Take the following steps to get relief:

  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • If you have asthma or another chronic lung condition, use your inhaler (such as albuterol).
  • Rest.
  • Take aspirin or acetaminophen (Tylenol) if you have a fever. DO NOT give aspirin to children
  • Use a humidifier or steam in the bathroom.

Certain medicines that you can buy without a prescription can help break up or loosen mucus. Look for the word "guaifenesin" on the label.

If your symptoms do not improve, your doctor may prescribe an inhaler to open your airways if you are wheezing.

Sometimes, bacteria may also infect the airways along with the virus. If your doctor thinks this has happened, you may be prescribed antibiotics.

Other tips include:

  • DO NOT smoke.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke and air pollution.
  • Wash your hands (and your children's hands) often to avoid spreading viruses and other infections.
Expectations (prognosis):

Symptoms usually go away in 7 to 10 days if you do not have a lung disorder. However, a dry, hacking cough can linger for a number of months.

Calling your health care provider:

Call your doctor if:

  • You have a cough on most days, or you have a cough that often returns
  • You are coughing up blood
  • You have a high fever or shaking chills
  • You have a low-grade fever for 3 or more days
  • You have thick, greenish mucus, especially if it has a bad smell
  • You feel short of breath or have chest pain
  • You have a chronic illness, like heart or lung disease
References:

Walsh EE. Acute bronchitis. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 61.

Ferri FF. Acute bronchitis. In: Ferri FF, ed. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2013. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:section 1.


Review Date: 7/15/2012
Reviewed By: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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