Acute bronchitis is an inflammation of the main airways to the lungs (the bronchi) that usually lasts for a brief period of time. It is not the same as chronic bronchitis, which often persists for a longer period of time. Alternative Names
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Acute bronchitis is one of the most common medical conditions seen in a doctor’s office. It is mainly caused by a virus that infects the respiratory system. There are many different respiratory viruses that can do this, including the rhinovirus, which causes the common cold.
You have a higher risk for getting bronchitis if you’ve had a recent illness or viral respiratory infection (which reduce your ability to fight off infections), or if you have chronic lung problems such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. You are also at higher risk for bronchitis if you smoke.
The classic symptoms of bronchitis may be like those of a cold. You may have a tickle in the back of your throat, which leads to a dry, irritating cough. As the infection gets worse, you may cough up thick, yellow mucus that may (rarely) be streaked with blood.
Sometimes the symptoms of bronchitis do not appear until the viral infection has gone away. Then another, bacterial infection causes the coughing symptoms of bronchitis.
The symptoms of bronchitis include
- Stays steady or gets worse for 10 days–2 weeks.
- Gets worse at night.
- Starts out dry and irritating, but becomes increasingly loose over time.
- Has mucus in it (younger kids usually can’t cough this up; they swallow it).
- Has blood in it (in rare cases); see a doctor if this happens.
- Lasts for less than 6–8 weeks.
- Shortness of breath.
- “Rattle” sensation in chest.
- General ill feeling (malaise).
- Slight fever.
- ickle feeling in back of throat that leads to soreness.
- Chest pain, soreness, and tightness in the chest.
- Poor sleep.
- Chills (uncommon).
Your doctor can diagnose acute bronchitis by reviewing your current health and medical history. A physical exam and chest x–ray can help rule out pneumonia.