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Alternative namesBronchitis - acute
DefinitionAn inflammation of the main air passages to the lungs (the bronchi).
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Acute bronchitis is generally caused by viral respiratory infections and typically appears just as the symptoms of the initial infection are waning.
These viral infections may be caused by any number of respiratory viruses including the rhinoviruses which cause the common cold . These viruses produce bronchial inflammation which sets the stage for bronchitis and, in some cases, a secondary bacterial infection.
As the infection progresses, the cough may become productive with thick yellow sputum (purulent sputum) which is very rarely blood streaked. Associated symptoms may include fever , malaise , chest pain , and shortness of breath .
Signs and testsA physical examination confirms the symptoms and signs of bronchitis, and is most important to help rule out the presence of pneumonia.
Tests performed may include:
The goal of treatment is to relieve the symptoms with medications and supportive measures. Multiple studies have shown antibiotics do not benefit most patients with acute bronchitis. In otherwise healthy people, antibiotics should rarely be prescribed..
Decongestants (such as pseudoephedrine) may also help alleviate the symptoms of bronchitis. Medications that liquefy mucus secretions (mucolytics, like guaifenesin) may also be prescribed.
Expectations (prognosis)Symptoms usually abate within 7 to 10 days in the absence of prior chronic pulmonary disease . Complete resolution of cough commonly takes longer in some patients.
Pneumonia is a possible complication.
Calling your health care providerCall your health care provider if symptoms suggestive of bronchitis occur.
Call your health care provider if you are being treated for acute bronchitis and breathlessness develops, or if you cough up blood .
Good handwashing is one of the best ways to avoid exposure to viruses and other respiratory infections.
Since influenza viruses have been shown to be a significant cause of bronchitis, yearly ful vaccination may also help prevent acute bronchitis.
Minimize exposure to cold, damp environments which, combined with air pollution or tobacco smoke, may make people more susceptible to bronchitis .
Update Date: 9/14/2003Thomas A. Owens, M.D., Departments of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT