Acute Bronchitis: Symptoms & Causes

Acute Bronchitis is a contagious viral infection affecting the lungs' lower respiratory system. It is swelling of the large airways (bronchial tubes) along with mucus production. The swelling narrows the lung airways, which makes it difficult to breathe. Acute bronchitis symptoms are present for a short time.

It is mainly observed in the winter but can occur at any time of the year. The most vulnerable age group to getting chest infections are infants, young children, and the elderly. Other factors that can trigger Bronchitis in people are smoking, other lung problems, air pollution, lung irritants, etc. A chest cold treatment may often require a multimodal approach, and therapy strategies might change based on the patient's health history.


Symptoms

The symptoms of acute bronchitis are:


When to see a doctor?

Most bronchitis patients can treat themselves at home with rest, anti-inflammatory medicines, and drinking lots of water. But if you are experiencing severe symptoms then you should visit a doctor: Seek medical help if you have bronchitis symptoms along with lung or heart issues.


Causes

Acute bronchitis can be caused by bacterial and viral infections, environmental causes, and other lung diseases.

Viral infection

It is the main cause of acute bronchitis. The bronchitis can be brought on by the same viruses that lead to the common cold or flu.

Bacterial infection

In very few situations, viral bronchitis can progress to bacterial bronchitis. This can result from infections with bacteria such as Bordetella pertussis, Chlamydia, pneumonia, and Mycoplasma pneumonia (which causes whooping cough).


Risk Factors

Factors that increase your risk of acute bronchitis include:

  • Age
  • Gastric reflux
  • Having chronic heart or lung diseases, such as congestive heart failure, COPD, asthma, and lung cancer.
  • Having a weak immunity
  • Smoking cigarettes and inhaling secondhand smoke
  • Exposure to irritants regularly and inhaling them can inflame the trachea and bronchial tubes. Examples of such substances are smoke, smog, and chemical fumes.

Prevention

All cases of acute bronchitis cannot be prevented. But quitting smoking and being vaccinated against the flu can lower the risk of bronchitis and its consequences.


Diagnosis

Taking medical history and physical exams may frequently identify acute bronchitis. Screening can be performed to rule out conditions like pneumonia or asthma. Any of the following tests might be used to support the diagnosis:

  • Chest X-rays: A test that generates images of internal organs, bones, and tissues, including the lungs, using invisible radiation beams.
  • Arterial blood gas: Carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in the blood are measured using an arterial blood gas test.
  • Pulse oximetry: It is a painless test that measures the blood's oxygen content.
  • Sputum test: The patient's cough is tested for virus and bacterial organisms.
  • Pulmonary function tests (PFTs): Pulmonary function tests can help evaluate lung function.

Treatment

Acute bronchitis is less severe, exists for short periods and rarely causes complications. The symptoms often resolve on their own, with the lungs resuming their normal functions.

Usually, antibiotics are not required to treat acute bronchitis, and that’s because viruses cause most infections, and antibiotics are not effective against viruses. If bronchitis has advanced to pneumonia, then antibiotics may be necessary.

The treatment focuses on treating the symptoms and may include:

  • Humidifying the air
  • Taking cough Suppressants
  • Bronchodilators
  • Antiviral medications
  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-inflammatory medicines
  • Increased fluid intake
  • Pain and fever-reducing medicines
  • Quitting smoking
  • Staying away from secondhand smoke

Do's and Don’ts

The highly contagious infection known as acute bronchitis causes inflammation of the bronchial passageways. When they are infected, these tubes expand and produce mucus, a sticky fluid. The symptoms are breathing problems, coughing, fever, etc. By following the dos and don'ts, it is easy to manage the condition and symptoms.

Do’sDon’ts
Take plenty of rest and keep yourself hydrated. Go out in cold or damp weather
Avoid smoky environments Delay in getting medical care if your symptoms worsen.
Eat healthy diet Smoke and inhale second hand smoke
Wash your hands often to prevent the spread of infection. Come in close contact with sick people
Take flu vaccinationTouch contaminated surfaces

Following the above tips will ease your pain and decrease complications.


Care at Medicover Hospitals

At Medicover Hospitals, we have the most trusted team of doctors and medical experts who are experienced in providing excellent healthcare services to the patients with compassion and care. Our diagnostic department is equipped with modern technology and equipment to conduct the tests required for the diagnosis of Restless Leg Syndrome based on which a dedicated treatment plan is designed. We have an excellent team of Neurologists who diagnose and treat this condition with utmost precision that brings successful treatment outcomes.

Citations

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK448067/
https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/bronchitis
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/bronchitis/
https://foundation.chestnet.org/lung-health-a-z/acute-bronchitis/
https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2016/1001/p560.html
https://bestpractice.bmj.com/topics/en-us/135
https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/conditions/bronchitis-acute
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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is acute bronchitis?

Acute bronchitis refers to the sudden onset of inflammation in the bronchial tubes, which are the air passages that connect the windpipe to the lungs. It is often caused by viral infections and results in symptoms such as coughing, chest discomfort, and difficulty breathing.

2. What are the typical symptoms of acute bronchitis?

Common symptoms of acute bronchitis include a persistent cough, usually accompanied by mucus production, chest tightness or discomfort, shortness of breath, low-grade fever, and general fatigue.

3. How is acute bronchitis treated?

Treatment for acute bronchitis primarily focuses on managing the symptoms. Rest, staying well-hydrated, and using over-the-counter cough suppressants and pain relievers can provide relief. If the bronchitis leads to bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed. However, most cases are caused by viruses, so antibiotics are not usually necessary.

4. What is the role of medicine in treating acute bronchitis?

Medications can help alleviate the discomfort associated with acute bronchitis. Cough suppressants can help reduce the intensity of coughing, while pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help ease chest discomfort and fever.

5. Is acute bronchitis contagious?

Yes, acute bronchitis is communicable, particularly when caused by a viral infection. When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks, it can spread by respiratory droplets.

6. How long does it take for acute bronchitis to resolve?

Most cases of acute bronchitis improve within a few days to a week. However, the cough can remain for several weeks, even after other symptoms have subsided.

7. What are the differences between viral bronchitis and bacterial bronchitis?

Viral bronchitis is the most common form and is caused by viruses, while bacterial bronchitis is caused by bacteria. Viral bronchitis is self-limiting and typically resolves on its own, while bacterial bronchitis may require antibiotics for treatment.

8. Can acute bronchitis lead to complications?

In most cases, acute bronchitis doesn't lead to serious complications. However, it can sometimes progress to pneumonia, especially in individuals with weakened immune systems or underlying health conditions.

9. How can I prevent acute bronchitis?

Good hygiene practices, such as frequent hand washing, avoiding close contact with ill people, and being vaccinated against the flu, can help lower the chance of catching infections that can lead to acute bronchitis.

10. When should I seek medical attention for acute bronchitis symptoms?

If you experience difficulty breathing, a high fever, severe chest pain, or if your symptoms worsen or do not improve after a week, it's important to consult a healthcare professional. This is especially crucial for those with preexisting health conditions.


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