Acute bronchitis is a respiratory infection that typically affects the bronchi, which are the two tubes that allow air to travel from your mouth to your lungs. You may experience this condition if you have an upper respiratory tract infection (URI) which causes inflammation and irritation in your airways. This means that they are producing more mucus than usual to protect themselves from irritation.
Acute bronchitis generally lasts for a short time – most people get over the worst of it in a few days, although the cough can linger for weeks. This condition is distinct from chronic bronchitis, which is caused by constant irritation such as that caused by smoking.
The symptoms of acute bronchitis include:
- coughing (often worse during the night and can last for up to three weeks)
- chest discomfort
- sore throat
- hoarseness/loss of voice
While bronchitis caused by a bacterial infection is treated with antibiotics, many cases of bronchitis are caused by viruses and cannot be treated with antibiotics. In some situations, people develop complications from bronchitis, such as pneumonia, which may require hospitalization.
How to Avoid Acute Bronchitis
One of the best ways to avoid this condition is by getting your flu shot every year and keeping up with the latest CDC recommendations for Covid vaccination. This will help you avoid getting a URI in the first place. But, if you do begin to come down with bronchitis, be sure to treat your URI right away.
Bronchitis and Covid-19
Bronchitis is a secondary infection – meaning it usually follows an upper respiratory infection caused by a virus (such as influenza, RSV, or a coronavirus). Bronchitis will not cause you to get Covid, but since Covid is a viral respiratory illness, it can cause bronchitis. Getting bronchitis following a Covid infection will increase your chances of developing complications that could require medical care.
If you have Covid symptoms, please consult with your doctor and consider a Covid test. If you develop symptoms of bronchitis following a Covid diagnosis, you should monitor for the symptoms listed above and begin treatment for your bronchitis.
How to Treat Acute Bronchitis
Usually, the infection will go away on its own. To help ease the symptoms, you should:
- Get lots of rest
- Stay hydrated (make sure to avoid caffeine and alcohol)
- Use over-the-counter pain relievers
- Try over-the-counter cough medicine
- Use a humidifier when you sleep or sit in a steamy bathroom
When to See a Doctor
Call your doctor if you:
- Have a cough that:
- Brings up blood or mucus that thickens or darkens
- Keeps you awake at night
- Lasts more than 3 weeks
- Causes chest pain
- Has a barking sound and makes it hard to speak
- Have trouble breathing
- Have foul-tasting fluid in your mouth
- Have a fever over 100.4 F
- Experience wheezing or shortness of breath
- Have unexplained weight loss
If you have symptoms of bronchitis or COVID-19, head to the nearest PromptMD Urgent Care for convenient testing and treatment. We’re here to care for you.