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Acute Bronchitis

(Bronchitis, Acute; Lower Respiratory Tract Infection, Chest Cold)

Definition

Acute bronchitis is a short-term respiratory infection that may be referred to as a chest cold. The bronchi branch off the trachea, taking air from the outside into the lungs. In bronchitis, the bronchi become inflamed and produce more mucus.
Bronchi of Lungs
lungs and bronchioles
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Causes

In most cases, acute bronchitis is caused by a viral infection. There are times when it may be caused by a bacterial infection.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your risk of getting acute bronchitis include:

Symptoms

Acute bronchitis may cause:
You may also have other cold or flu symptoms, such as slight fever, sore throat, and nasal congestion.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests are rarely needed. The following may be recommended if the bronchitis is severe or the diagnosis is not clear:
Sputum cultures to check for the presence of bacteria are rarely helpful.

Treatment

Acute bronchitis can be treated with rest and medications. It can take up to a month for the cough to go away.
Your doctor may recommend:
Antibiotics are not used for treatment because acute bronchitis is usually the result of a viral infection.
Cough suppressants are not generally recommended. Coughing is important to help you clear extra mucus from your lungs.
Avoid using cough suppressant medication. Coughing is necessary to clear mucus from your lungs. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that cough supressants not be used in children less than 2 years old. The FDA also supports not using them in children less than 4 years old.

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of acute bronchitis:

RESOURCES

American Lung Association http://www.lung.org

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

The College of Family Physicians of Canada http://www.cfpc.ca

The Lung Association http://www.lung.ca

References

About antibiotic use and resistance. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/getsmart/community/about/index.html. Updated September 13, 2013. Accessed February 14, 2014.

Acute bronchitis. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/acute-bronchitis.html. Updated September 2013. Accessed February 14, 2014.

Acute bronchitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 21, 2013. Accessed February 14, 2014.

Smith SM, Fahey T, Smucny J, Becker LA. Antibiotics for acute bronchitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;3:CD000245.

2/3/2015 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Rantala A, Jaakkola JJ, Jaakkola MS. Respiratory infections in adults with atopic disease and IgE antibodies to common aeroallergens. PLoS One. 2013;8(7):e68582.

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