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    The Brooklyn Hospital Center's Division of Head and Neck Surgery manages the diagnosis and surgical treatment of benign and malignant tumors of the head and neck. Staffed by a team of highly capable sur ...

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Bronchitis - acute

Definition

Acute bronchitis is swelling and inflammation of the main air passages to the lungs. This swelling narrows the airways, making it harder to breathe and causing other symptoms, such as a cough. Acute means the symptoms have only been present for a short time.

Causes

Acute bronchitis almost always follows a cold or flu-like infection. The infection is caused by a virus. At first, it affects your nose, sinuses, and throat. Then it spreads to the airways leading to your lungs.

Sometimes, bacteria also infect the airways. This is called a secondary infection.

Chronic bronchitis is a long-term condition. To be diagnosed with chronic bronchitis, you must have a cough with mucus most days of the month for at least 3 months.

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.

 

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will listen to your lungs with a stethoscope. Abnormal, coarse breathing sounds may be heard.

Tests may include:

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:

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:

Outlook (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.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your doctor if:

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 medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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    Orthopaedic Services

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