Health information brought to you by Carena.
Bronchitis often occurs after an upper respiratory infection like a cold or flu. With acute bronchitis, the bronchial tubes
in the lungs become inflamed and swollen and you may feel chest pain or shortness of breath. The swollen bronchial
tubes also produce mucus, which may cause you to cough. Symptoms of acute bronchitis last for up to two weeks, but
for some people the cough can last for up to eight weeks.
Chronic bronchitis is more serious and is an ongoing condition in which the lining of the bronchial tubes is constantly
inflamed. If you have a cough with mucus on most days for at least three months a year and two years in a row, you
may have chronic bronchitis. During cold and flu season, viruses or bacteria can easily infect the bronchial tubes (as
with acute bronchitis) and make your chronic condition even worse. Cigarette smoking is often to blame for chronic
bronchitis so it’s best to quit right away if you smoke.
Infections from cold and flu viruses are usually to blame for acute bronchitis. On occasion, bacteria can cause the
condition. Exposure to irritants such as cigarette smoke, pollution, or dust may also place you at greater risk for
bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis, in particular, is caused by constantly breathing smoke into your lungs.
Signs and symptoms
The primary symptom of acute bronchitis is a cough.
It often comes on after you’ve had a cold or flu. The
cough may produce mucus, which could be clear, When to seek professional care
green, or yellow. If the mucus is green or yellow,
that may indicate a bacterial infection. Other acute Seek medical attention if you or your
bronchitis symptoms include: child has:
• Wheezing • A temperature higher than 100.4° F
• Soreness or tightness in the chest • A fever and cough with thick or bloody mucus
• Shortness of breath • A chronic heart or lung problem
• Low-grade fever (less than 102° F) • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
• Symptoms that last more than three weeks
The hallmark sign of chronic bronchitis is “smoker’s
cough,” which is a cough that may produce a large • Repeated episodes of bronchitis
quantity of mucus. Wheezing and chest discomfort
may accompany this type of cough.
Whether you have acute or chronic bronchitis, the treatment is aimed at relieving your symptoms. With bronchitis that
is caused by a virus such as a cold or flu, you may be able to ease your symptoms with self-care. For bacterial bronchitis,
your doctor may recommend an antibiotic. Antibiotics are not usually prescribed for viral illnesses because they don’t
work against viruses.
If you have trouble with wheezing, inhaled medications (inhalers) may be recommended. Other medications may be
available to help relieve your cough and treat the inflammation in your airways. For extremely serious cases of chronic
bronchitis, oxygen therapy may be prescribed.
Soothe with self-care
For acute bronchitis from a viral illness, you may feel better with the following self-care tips:
• Get extra rest.
• Drink plenty of fluids.
• Reduce fever and discomfort with ibuprofen or acetaminophen.* Many over-the-counter products are not
recommended for young children so always check with your doctor before starting a new medication or giving
one to your child. Remember not to give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 who is ill with a fever as it may
cause liver damage or swelling of the brain, also known as Reye’s syndrome.**
• Use a humidifier or steam to help loosen mucus in your lungs.
Preventing acute bronchitis
• Don’t smoke.
• Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke and do not expose children to secondhand smoke. It’s also a good idea to
avoid too much pollution, dust, or other irritants. If you work around these types of irritants, wear a face mask.
• Practice good hand washing.
• Keep you and your child up-to-date with recommended immunizations such as flu shots.
Carena is not an appropriate option for medical emergencies. If you believe your condition may represent a medical emergency, call 911 immediately
or proceed directly to the ER.
* Do not take ibuprofen if you have stomach or kidney problems. Also, do not take acetaminophen if you have liver disease.
**Reye’s syndrome is a potentially fatal disease that affects many organs but primarily the brain and liver. The exact cause is not known, but it can be
associated with the use of aspirin in children with a viral illness.
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