Symptoms & Causes of Acute Bronchitis

What is acute bronchitis?

Acute bronchitis, likewise known as a chest cold, is the inflammation of the bronchi of the lungs, which leads to swollen and inflamed airways and cause cough with mucus production.

The lungs are a pair of spongy air-filled organs, the trachea(windpipe) connects both lungs with the help of its branches called the bronchi. The bronchi enter into the lungs and further divides into a smaller branch called the bronchioles. The bronchioles are entirely situated inside the lungs, at the end of the bronchioles are the alveoli(air sac) which carry out the gas exchange. 

The bronchi are divided into three sections according to how it enters the lungs: the primary(main) bronchi, secondary(lobar) bronchi, and tertiary(segmental) bronchi.

Most cases of acute bronchitis usually get better within a few days. However, the cough can persist for many weeks after the bronchitis infection is gone.

What are the symptoms of acute bronchitis?

The signs and symptoms of acute bronchitis include:

What causes acute bronchitis?

The following can increase your risk of getting acute bronchitis: 

Viral infections causes

Viral infections are the primary cause of acute bronchitis, about 90% of cases. The illnesses which are the primary culprits are:

  • Influenza (popularly known for causing flu)
  • Respiratory syncytial virus (Human Orthopneumovirus)
  • Parainfluenza
  • Rhinovirus (is the most prevalent reason for the common cold)
  • Coronavirus

Bacteria infections causes

Bacteria infections cause the other 10% of cases. Common bacterias that cause acute bronchitis are:

  • Bordetella pertussis (is the causative agent of whooping cough
  •  or pertussis)
  • Mycoplasma pneumoniae
  • Chlamydophila pneumoniae (it is one of the causes of pneumonia)
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae (is one of the most basic reasons for pneumonia)
  • Haemophilus influenzae

Other causes of acute bronchitis, include:

The other causes of acute bronchitis are a broad spectrum of infections that cause other diseases as well. Some factors that make people prone to these sets of infections are:

How is acute bronchitis spread?

The mode of transmission for acute bronchitis are:

  • Touching a contaminated surface (blankets or doorknobs).
  • Airborne respiratory droplets ( through sneezing or coughing)
  • Throughout saliva (shared drinks or kissing)
  • Skin to skin contact (hugs or handshakes)

How is acute bronchitis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider or pulmonologist will perform the following to help diagnosed acute bronchitis: 

  • Physical examination (percussion and auscultation)
  • Sputum sample (to check for color of sputum, presence of white blood cells)
  • Nasal swab to rule out flu
  • Chest x-ray (to exclude other diseases such as pneumonia)
  • Complete blood count (to check elevated C-reactive protein)
  • Spirometry.

What is the treatment for acute bronchitis?

The primary treatment of acute bronchitis is good bed rest to get plenty of sleep each night, regular intake of fluids ( 6-12 cups of water) and prescribed medications, such as: 

  • Throat Lozenges for sore throat.
  • Over-the-counter cough medicine: Dextromethorphan (DMX)
  • Over-the-counter expectorant: guaifenesin (Mucinex, Robitussin)
  • Pain relievers and antipyretics: paracetamol, ibuprofen, naproxen

This primary treatment of acute bronchitis should be under the supervision of a doctor to prevent the progress of pneumonia or the transformation of acute bronchitis to chronic bronchitis. Also, lifestyle modifications are needed, such as: stop smoking, frequent hand washing, avoid respiratory irritants, and boost the immune system with vitamin C.

Lastly, this is an informative article about acute bronchitis. If you experience symptoms, make sure to consult a doctor for proper checkup.