What is acute bronchitis?

Acute Bronchitis

What is acute bronchitis?

Acute bronchitis, also known as a chest cold or viral bronchitis, is an inflammation of the airways in your lungs.

People who have acute bronchitis usually have a nagging cough with or without mucus.

There are two types of bronchitis: acute and chronic.

Acute bronchitis is a short-term infection, while chronic bronchitis is a long-term condition.

But note: acute bronchitis is very different from chronic bronchitis.

How long does acute bronchitis last?

Acute bronchitis usually lasts about two weeks.

Although in some people, the cough may last for up to 8 weeks.

In other words, most people with acute bronchitis get better within two weeks.

However, in some cases, the cough can last up to two months.

Acute Bronchitis Symptoms

The most common symptoms of acute bronchitis are:

In addition, people with acute bronchitis may have:

  • A runny nose
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite

Also read: 10 Signs of Bronchitis in Kids

Acute Bronchitis Causes

The most common cause of acute bronchitis is a viral infection, such as the common cold or flu.

Put it another way:

The same viruses that cause the common cold and flu can also cause acute bronchitis.

Also, bacterial infection can cause acute bronchitis, although this is less common.

Other causes of acute bronchitis include:

  • Tobacco smoke, whether from cigarettes or cigars
  • Exposure to air pollution, fumes, or smoke
  • Dust and pollen
  • Family history of lungs disease
  • Allergies
  • Weakened immune system

Can You Catch Bronchitis From Someone Who Has It?


Acute bronchitis is contagious and can be spread through coughing and sneezing.

You can also catch bronchitis from contact with a person who has the infection.

For example, if you shake hands, hug or kiss someone who has acute bronchitis, you may end up catching the infection.

How Is Acute Bronchitis Diagnosed?

Your doctor will likely diagnose acute bronchitis based on your symptoms and a physical exam.

In some cases, your doctor may order tests to help confirm the diagnosis, such as a chest X-ray.

This can help rule out other possible causes of your symptoms, such as pneumonia.

How is Acute Bronchitis Treated?

Most cases of acute bronchitis get better on their own within a few weeks.

However, there are a few things that you can do to help relieve your symptoms:

  • Drink plenty of fluids to loosen mucus and thin the bronchial secretions.
  • Rest as much as possible.
  • Use a humidifier or steam vaporizer to increase air moisture in your home. This may help loosen secretions and make it easier to cough them up.
  • Take over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), to help reduce fever and pain.
  • Use saline nasal spray or drops to help relieve a stuffy nose.
  • Do not smoke and avoid secondhand smoke.

If your symptoms do not improve after a few weeks, contact your doctor.

Prevention of Acute Bronchitis

There are a few things that you can do to help prevent acute bronchitis, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap, especially before you eat.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay away from cigarette smoke and other air pollutants.
  • Get annual flu, and pneumonia shots to help prevent infections that may lead to acute bronchitis.

Can acute bronchitis turn into pneumonia?


In some cases, acute bronchitis can progress to pneumonia if not treated.

This may happen if the infection spreads to the lungs.

This is why it’s critical to see your doctor if your symptoms do not improve after a few weeks.

When to seek medical attention?

See a doctor if you develop a high fever (over 101 degrees Fahrenheit), shortness of breath, chest pain, or if bronchitis does not improve after a few weeks.

What’s more, if your child has a cough and cold that lasts longer than two weeks, be sure to contact the doctor.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Can I catch acute bronchitis from someone who has it?
  • What are the symptoms of acute bronchitis?
  • Do they go away on their own, or will I need to seek medical treatment for them?
  • Can acute bronchitis turn into pneumonia if not treated properly?
  • How can I prevent getting this condition in the future?
  • When should I seek medical attention for my symptoms?
  • What tests will be performed to determine if I have acute bronchitis?
  • Are there any treatments available that can help me recover more quickly?

Keep on reading: How To Cleanse Your Lungs Easily