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What is Acute Bronchitis?

Acute bronchitis is sudden inflammation in the lower respiratory tract, usually caused by a viral illness that affects the air tubes known as the bronchi of the lungs. The condition usually has a rapid onset with symptoms such as chest tightness, shortness of breath, wheezing and a cough (either dry or mucus producing).

It can start as a viral illness that moves from the upper respiratory tract to the lower respiratory tract usually after a cold. It may also occur after breathing in irritants like cigarette smoke, dust and air pollution. Only a small percentage of cases are due to a bacterial infection, which means that for the majority of patients with acute bronchitis, the illness will get better on its own.

Who is at Risk for Acute Bronchitis?

Patients most at risk for acute bronchitis typically have a compromised immune system from other health conditions or have chronic lung diseases which make them more susceptible to bronchitis and pneumonia.

Other risk factors include:

  • Elderly

  • Children

  • Viral illnesses such as flu, pneumonia and whooping cough

  • Patients undergoing treatment for cancer

  • Diabetic Patients

If you have a chronic lung disease or are immunocompromised, it is important to seek treatment immediately for symptoms of bronchitis.

The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you can be on the road to recovery. Please call our office to schedule an appointment at (804)320-4243.

Symptoms of
Acute Bronchitis

Occasionally, acute bronchitis is diagnosed as pneumonia; however, a chest x-ray can help distinguish which illness is causing the symptoms.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Coughing up mucus

  • Feeling tired or run down

  • Having symptoms of a cold a few days prior to coughing

  • Wheezing

  • Tightness in chest

Acute bronchitis can last 3 to 10 days, but if your symptoms are getting worse or persisting, it is important to see your doctor.

Treatment for Acute Bronchitis

Most cases will resolve on their own without the need for antibiotics. However, Pulmonary Associates of Richmond can offer supportive therapies to help speed your recovery such as: inhaled medicine to open airway, steroids to control inflammation, and offer suggestions to make your recovery more comfortable, like:

  • Getting plenty of rest

  • Staying hydrated

  • Using over-the-counter pain relievers

  • Using a cool mist humidifier

It is not unusual to have a cough up to 3 weeks after having acute bronchitis. Your cough may linger, but you should feel better and have more energy once the virus has run its course.

If you are a patient with a chronic lung condition, Pulmonary Associates of Richmond offers a few tips on how to prevent acute bronchitis.

  • Avoid inhaling irritants to the lungs such as smoke, vaping or chemicals such as paint, paint remover or varnish

  • Wash hands often to reduce exposure to viruses and bacteria

  • If you are 60 or older, you may inquire about the pneumonia shot

  • Always get a flu shot every year