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Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, the airways that carry air to your lungs. It causes a cough that often brings up mucus. It can also cause shortness of breath, wheezing, a low fever, and chest tightness. There are two main types of bronchitis: acute and chronic.
Most cases of acute bronchitis get better within several days. But your cough can last for several weeks after the infection is gone.
The same viruses that cause colds and the flu often cause acute bronchitis. These viruses spread through the air when people cough, or though physical contact (for example, on unwashed hands). Being exposed to tobacco smoke, air pollution, dusts, vapors, and fumes can also cause acute bronchitis. Less often, bacteria can also cause acute bronchitis.
To diagnose acute bronchitis, your health care provider will ask about your symptoms and listen to your breathing. You may also have other tests.
Treatments include rest, fluids, and aspirin (for adults) or acetaminophen to treat fever. A humidifier or steam can also help. You may need inhaled medicine to open your airways if you are wheezing. Antibiotics won't help if the cause is viral. You may get antibiotics if the cause is bacterial.
NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
- Acute Bronchitis (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
- Acute Bronchitis (American Lung Association)
- Bronchitis (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute) Also in Spanish
- Chest Cold (Acute Bronchitis) (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Also in Spanish
Diagnosis and Tests
- Blood Oxygen Level (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
- Tests for Lung Disease (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute) Also in Spanish
Prevention and Risk Factors
- Is Acute Bronchitis Contagious? (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
Treatments and Therapies
- Bronchitis Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment (American Lung Association)
- Cough Culprits: What's the Difference Between Bronchitis and Pneumonia? (National Institutes of Health) Also in Spanish
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Bronchiolitis (National Institutes of Health)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Bronchitis (National Institutes of Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Baseline Inappropriate Antibiotic Use in Primary Care Patients with Viral Respiratory...
- Article: Estimating the burden of influenza-attributable severe acute respiratory infections on the...
- Article: The Application Value of Clinical Intervention Approaches Based on the Guidance...
- Acute Bronchitis -- see more articles
- Bronchi, Bronchial Tree, and Lungs (National Cancer Institute)
- How the Lungs Work (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute) Also in Spanish
- Bronchitis (For Parents) (Nemours Foundation) Also in Spanish
- Plastic Bronchitis (For Parents) (Nemours Foundation) Also in Spanish
- Bronchitis - acute (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Postural drainage (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Routine sputum culture (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish