Acute bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of the breathing airways or the bronchi. These breathing airways are the tubes that deliver air from the trachea or windpipe into the lungs.
When the bronchial tubes are inflamed, it can lead to excessive production and build-up of mucus. The main types of bronchitis are acute and chronic. Chronic bronchitis can last for many weeks and will usually occur as a recurring condition. Acute bronchitis lasts for a shorter duration, usually less than 10 days. However, with acute bronchitis, wheezing and coughing can last for longer.
Acute bronchitis is also commonly called a chest cold. Read on to learn more about this illness.
The signs and symptoms of acute bronchitis include symptoms of a common cold or flu as well as respiratory symptoms like wheezing and coughing. In general, the symptoms include the following:
- Coughing – initially a dry cough, then producing large amounts of mucus
- Coughing out blood in severe cases
- Muscle pain and back-ache
- Soreness and congestion in the chest
- Headache and tiredness
- Streaming nose and watery eyes
- Sore throat
- Fever and chills
- Cold and sneezing
Acute bronchitis causes include:
- Viral or bacterial infections that affect the upper respiratory tract. In such cases, it will be highly infectious and can easily spread
- It may also be caused by irritants in the air, like smoke, pollutants, and dust, that lead to inflammation in the bronchial tubes
- People with allergies may also get it due to an allergic reaction leading to inflammation of the breathing airways
- People who have lung conditions like asthma and chronic sinusitis can also develop acute bronchitis
Acute bronchitis is contagious if it is caused by a bacterial or viral infection. In other cases, it may become contagious if it leads to the development of an infection.
To diagnose acute bronchitis, our medical specialist will ask about the patient’s medical history and any chronic conditions and allergies they have. They will also conduct a physical exam and prescribe certain tests to confirm the diagnosis.
Tests for acute bronchitis diagnosis may include:
- Lung function test – this tests the lung function to measure the breathing capacity of the lungs
- X-ray scan of the chest – this imaging test is used to check internal tissues and organs, such as the lungs
- Sputum culture – this tests a sample of your sputum to check for infections
Our treatment for acute bronchitis may differ based on the cause and types of acute bronchitis. In certain cases, acute bronchitis may result in mild symptoms and resolve on its own. In the case of infectious acute bronchitis, treatment will target the viral infection. In the rare case that it is caused by bacterial infection, we may prescribe antibiotics.
Apart from treating the underlying cause, our treatment will also target acute bronchitis symptoms. These treatments may include:
- Cough medication
- Pain relief medication
- Antihistamines if required
While there is no certain way to prevent acute bronchitis, there are certain precautions a person can take. If they experience allergies, they can try to reduce exposure to allergens and environments that trigger their allergies.
They can also take steps to prevent or reduce the risk of it leading to serious complications like pneumonia by getting pneumonia shots. In addition to these measures, one can also take certain lifestyle measures. These include:
- Avoiding exposure to smoke, secondhand smoke, and common allergens
- Using a humidifier to increase the humidity of the indoor air
- Increased fluid intake
- Quitting smoking in case the person smokes
Factors that can increase the risk of getting acute bronchitis include:
- Low immune resistance
- Frequent exposure to irritants like dust and chemical fumes
- Lack of vaccinations for flu
- Asthma, lung conditions, and allergies
What are the complications of acute bronchitis?
Acute bronchitis can worsen and lead to chronic bronchitis or pneumonia. In such cases, pneumonia will need a different treatment.
Acute bronchitis can lead to discomfort with cold symptoms, excess mucus production, and coughing or wheezing. It is important to get it checked and diagnosed as soon as possible. If one experiences symptoms of acute bronchitis, like a running nose, watery eyes, or coughing up large amounts of mucus, it is a good idea to get it immediately checked by a medical specialist.
At the CK Birla Hospital, Department of Pulmonology we offer patient specific solutions for the detection, prevention, and treatment of respiratory and lung problems. Our department is integrated with emergency and critical care services to offer 24 x 7 support to patients with severe respiratory disorders. For the best consultation, diagnosis and treatment, reach out to Dr Kuldeep Grover at the CK Birla Hospital or book an appointment here (link).