Acute Bronchitis In Adults And Children Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Home Remedies

Acute Bronchitis In Adults And Children Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Home Remedies


What is bronchitis?


Bronchitis means that the tubes that carry air to the lungs camera (the bronchial tubes) are inflamed and irritated. When this happens, the tubes swell and produce mucus. This makes you cough.

There are two types of bronchitis:

  • Acute bronchitis usually comes on quickly and gets better after 2 to 3 weeks. Most healthy people who get acute bronchitis get better without any problems. See a picture of acute bronchitis camera.
  • Chronic bronchitis keeps coming back and can last a long time, especially in people who smoke. Chronic bronchitis means you have a cough with mucus most days of the month for 3 months of the year for at least 2 years in a row.
Both children and adults can get acute bronchitis.

What Is Acute Bronchitis?


Acute bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, the hollow air passages that connect the lungs to the windpipe (trachea). The inflammation can be caused by an infection or by other factors that irritate the airways, such as cigarette smoking, allergies and exposure to fumes from some chemicals.

Acute Bronchitis In Adults And Children Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Home Remedies

Acute bronchitis caused by an infection usually starts with an upper respiratory illness, such as the common cold or flu (influenza), that spreads from your nose and throat down into the airways. Acute bronchitis does not affect the lungs like pneumonia does. Pneumonia shows up on a chest X-ray, but acute bronchitis usually does not.

Most cases of acute bronchitis are caused by viruses, although the condition also can be caused by bacteria.

It is important to distinguish acute bronchitis from chronic bronchitis. Acute bronchitis usually lasts less than 10 days. However the coughing can continue for several weeks after the inflammation has cleared. Chronic bronchitis can last for several weeks and usually comes back.

What causes acute bronchitis?


Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a virus. Often a person gets acute bronchitis after having an upper respiratory tract infection such as a common cold or the flu. In rare cases, acute bronchitis is caused by bacteria.

Acute bronchitis also can be caused by breathing in things that irritate the bronchial tubes, such as tobacco smoke, chemicals and air pollution. It also can happen if a person inhales food or vomit into the lungs.

Symptoms of Acute Bronchitis


The symptoms of acute bronchitis are not specific. They mimic symptoms of other conditions such as chronic cough, chronic bronchitis, postnasal drip, and pneumonia. Therefore, acute diagnosis must always be diagnosed by a doctor.

Common symptoms of acute bronchitis include:


  • chronic cough, which may continue beyond 10 days and contain clear or colored mucus
  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing
  • low-grade fever (a high fever may be an indication of a secondary infection such as pneumonia)
  • chest pain
  • chest tightness
  • sore throat from persistent coughing

Children with acute bronchitis may experience:


  • runny nose
  • chills
  • back or muscle pain
  • sore throat

When you call your doctor:

  • unexplained weight loss
  • deep, barking cough
  • difficulty breathing
  • chest pain
  • a fever of 100.4ยบ F or higher
  • a cough that last more than 10 days

Is acute bronchitis contagious?


The majority of people with acute bronchitis are contagious if the cause is an infectious agent such as a virus or bacterium. People are usually less likely to be contagious as the symptoms wane. However, acute bronchitis that is caused by exposure to pollutants, tobacco smoke, or other environmental agents is not contagious.

How is acute bronchitis diagnosed?


Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and examine you. This usually gives the doctor enough information to find out if you have acute bronchitis.

In some cases, the doctor may take a chest X-ray to make sure that you don't have pneumonia or another lung problem.

Treatment of Acute Bronchitis


Most cases of acute bronchitis do not require medical treatment. People diagnosed with acute bronchitis will be told to rest and drink plenty of fluids to keep the mucus thin, watery and easy to cough up. Warm, moist air also can loosen sputum and make coughing and breathing easier. Because of that, many physicians recommend at least one of the following for people with bronchitis:

  • Using a vaporizer or humidifier
  • Standing in or near a hot shower
  • Drinking hot tea or soup
  • Breathing in the steam from a sink or pot filled with hot water. You can catch more of the steam by tenting a towel over your head while bending over the water. For safety reasons, do not breathe from a pot of boiling water that is still on the stove.
If you have a fever, most physicians will recommend taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and others) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to reduce fever. However, aspirin should not be given to children under age 19 to avoid the risk of Reye's syndrome, a rare but serious, potentially fatal illness that can occur when a child with a fever takes aspirin.

People who smoke should avoid smoking during the illness to reduce irritation to the airways.

If bronchitis is caused by a bacterial infection and doesn't get better on its own, an antibiotic may be prescribed. Antibiotics will be given only when there is a strong suspicion that the bronchitis is caused by a bacterial infection. That's because of rising concerns about antibiotic resistance, in which bacteria evolve in ways that allow them to survive antibiotics. This problem is increasing and is caused, in part, by antibiotics being used incorrectly and when they are not needed.

In some cases, doctors may prescribe a bronchodilator, an inhaled medication that helps the airways to open. These are the same medications used by some people with asthma to ease breathing during an asthma attack.

Prevention of Acute Bronchitis


There is no way to prevent all cases of acute bronchitis. However, the risk of bronchitis and complications can be reduced by not smoking and by getting flu shots to reduce the risk of getting the flu, which can lead to acute bronchitis.

Acute bronchitis home remedies


Home remedies may help reduce acute bronchitis symptoms. For example, staying well hydrated by drinking fluids, breathing humidified air, and avoiding dairy products as well as may keep secretions thin and more easily removed. Alcohol and caffeine should be avoided as they can interact with some of the ingredients of OTC cold preparations. Over-the-counter cough suppressants and cough drops can help reduce coughing symptoms and NSAID's and/or acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) may reduce discomfort (aspirin, especially in children and young adults is not recommended due to the risk of Reye's syndrome). However, before trying these at home, read the labels to be sure they are safe for you to use.

In addition, avoiding air pollution by staying indoors, by avoiding tobacco smoke and other environmental bronchial irritants may reduce symptoms. If symptoms worsen, see your doctor. For children under age 2 (and some doctors recommend under age 6), the doctor should be consulted before OTC medicines are used.