Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
 

Acute Bronchitis

Acute Bronchitis

Illustration of  the  anatomy of the respiratory system, adult
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What is acute bronchitis?

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the breathing tubes (airways) that are called bronchi, which causes increased production of mucus and other changes. Although there are several different types of bronchitis, the two most common are acute and chronic.

What causes acute bronchitis?

Acute bronchitis is usually caused by infectious agents, such as bacteria or viruses. It may also be caused by physical or chemical agents--dusts, allergens, and strong fumes, including those from chemical cleaning compounds or tobacco smoke. Acute asthmatic bronchitis may happen as the result of an asthma attack, or it may be the cause of an asthma attack.

Acute bronchitis is usually a mild, and self-limiting condition, with complete resolution of symptoms and return of normal lung function.

Acute bronchitis may follow the common cold or other viral infections in the upper respiratory tract. It may also occur in people with chronic sinusitis, allergies, or those with enlarged tonsils and adenoids. It can be serious in people with pulmonary or cardiac diseases. Pneumonia is a complication that can follow bronchitis.

What are the symptoms acute bronchitis?

The following are the most common symptoms for acute bronchitis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of acute bronchitis may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is acute bronchitis diagnosed?

Acute bronchitis is usually diagnosed by completing a medical history and physical examination. Many tests may be ordered to rule out other diseases, such as pneumonia or asthma. The following tests may be ordered to help confirm a diagnosis:

Treatment for acute bronchitis

Specific treatment for acute bronchitis will be determined by your doctor based on:

In most cases, antibiotic treatment is not necessary to treat acute bronchitis, since most of the infections are caused by viruses. If the condition has progressed to pneumonia, then antibiotics may be appropriate. Most of the treatment is designed to address the symptoms, and may include:

Antihistamines should be avoided in most cases because they dry up the secretions and can make the cough worse.

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