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Acute Bronchitis

acute bronchitis

Acute bronchitis is an infection of the bronchi - the large airways. Acute bronchitis is common and is usually due to a viral infection. A bacterial infection is a less common cause.

What are the symptoms of acute bronchitis?

The main symptom is cough. You may also develop fever, headache, cold symptoms, and aches and pains. Time taken to peak is usually 2-3 days and then it gradually clears. However, it commonly takes 2-3 weeks for the cough to go completely after the other symptoms have gone.

What is the treatment for acute bronchitis?

The treatment is mostly supportive while your immune system clears the infection. Take paracetamol, ibuprofen, or aspirin to reduce fever (high temperature), and to ease any aches. Drink plenty of water, if you have a fever, to prevent dehydration. Smoking is very harmful in the setting of a bronchial disease so try to quit.

What about cold and cough remedies?

Most medications just provide mild symptomatic relief however a decongestant nose spray may help to clear a blocked nose. But it is important to remember that cold and cough remedies often contain several ingredients. Some may make you drowsy. This is usually a blessing in disguise at bedtime if you have difficulty sleeping with bronchitis. Important: Do not drive if you are drowsy.

What is the role of antibiotics?

Antibiotics are not advised if you are in good health. Most importantly antibiotics do not kill viruses. Antibiotics may be prescribed if you become more unwell, or if you already have an ongoing lung disease. They may also be prescribed if a complication develops such as pneumonia.

What alarming symptoms should I look out for?
  • Fever, wheezing or headaches become severe.
  • Fast breathing, shortness of breath, or chest pains.
  • Cough up blood
  • If you become drowsy or confused.
  • If a cough persists longer than 3-4 weeks.
  • Recurring bouts of acute bronchitis.

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