Acute bronchitis is acute inflammation of the bronchi, the main air passages of the lungs. This is a rather common condition affecting people of all ages and in majority of cases the inflammation is caused by viruses. The condition is rarely caused by bacteria.
Acute Bronchitis Clinical Characteristics
Inflammation of the large air passages is always accompanied by cough. Besides cough one may develop fever, headache, different aches/pains and symptoms that generally occur if one is suffering from cold.
Symptoms become most prominent and intensive a day or two after the onset of the disease. They soon clear on their own. The diseases does not linger for more than 2-3 weeks. Cough is the only symptom of the disease that may last until the irritated lining of the affected bronchi heals completely.
Bronchitis Causes and Risk Factors
Acute bronchitis most commonly develops as a consequence of a viral infection. The infection typical starts in the nasal cavity or sinuses and then spreads down onto the lungs. It is not unusual if one also develops secondary bacterial infection in the airways. In such case the initial infection is viral but it after some time turns into bacterial.
Even though acute bronchitis may affect people of all ages, people particularly susceptible to this infection are the elderly, infants and young children. Suffering from a chronic condition (different heart or lung conditions) is another risk factor that increases the chance of contracting the infection. Finally, acute bronchitis as well as the chronic form of the disease frequently affects smokers.
Acute Bronchitis Treatment Options
The goal of the treatment for acute bronchitis is to reduce the intensity of symptoms and help patients deal with the infection. There are no drugs that are prescribed in order to directly kill the virus (there are no antiviral medications prescribed for the condition). Still, patients benefit from a range of medications that bring the symptoms of the infection under control.
Paracetamol, ibuprofen or Aspirin are taken to reduce increased body temperature. They also help with headache and muscle ache.
Intake of fluid must be abundant, this way preventing potential dehydration. Elderly individuals and infants are particularly susceptible to dehydration. Smokers are due to quit smoking, if not for good, then at least until the infection completely subsides.
Antibiotics are not routinely used in people suffering from acute bronchitis. They are only prescribed if one develops secondary bacterial infection of the airway. Antibiotics are also administered prophylactically in people already suffering from some chronic conditions.
In healthy individuals the condition does not last longer than 7-10 days. Cough, however, may linger for some time.