Acute bronchitis refers to the inflammation and swelling of the bronchial tubes which carry air to the lungs. This inflammatory process results in production of mucus that makes you cough. It can be brought on by a virus or a bacteria, and lasts up to three weeks. Chronic bronchitis keeps coming back cumulatively lasting up to three months of the year for two years in a row.
- Cough producing discolored phlegm, often accompanied by a sore throat
- Wheezing and chest congestion
- Fever with the above symptoms, chills, body aches
Who is at risk?
Smokers suffer frequently from bronchitis, as will anyone with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), like Emphysema. Acute bronchitis often shows up in someone with an upper respiratory tract infection resulting from a cold or flu. It may also result from a bacterial infection or inhalation of smoke or irritating chemicals. On occasion, it may lead to pneumonia if not treated properly.
With rest, plenty of clear fluids and humidity (humidifier, steam shower, etc.), acute bronchitis should go away on its own after several days to a week. Smokers take much longer to recover. Your doctor might take a chest x-ray to rule out pneumonia, but bronchitis is largely a clinical diagnosis based on your history and the symptoms you are experiencing. Once bronchitis is diagnosed, most doctors will recommend lots of fluid and sometimes an over the counter expectorant to rid the lungs of phlegm. If you are wheezing, you may receive an inhaled medication called Albuterol or Xopenex which can help open inflamed bronchial tubes. “Cough” drops don’t really make a cough go away, but might soothe that sore throat and annoying tickle.
Emergency Warning Signs: When should I see a doctor?
If you have a crushing chest pain, wheezing and breathing difficulty, blood or yellow/green sputum in your mucus, or any of these along with a fever over 101°F, you should be evaluated by a physician. If you have been treated for bronchitis and your symptoms do not improve in 14 days, call your doctor again. Proceed to a hospital emergency department right away for severe difficulty breathing.
Treatment for bronchitis is available now at Mountain Lakes Medical Center in Mountain Lakes, NJ.
For more information on bronchitis, see the following websites:
Understanding Bronchitis from WebMD
FamilyDoctor.org Acute Bronchitis
MedicineNet on How to Quit Smoking
Disclaimer: The links above are to sites independent of MtLakesMedical.com. The pages will open in a new browser window. The information provided is for educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your doctor. Always follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding your specific medical questions, treatments, therapies, and other needs.