Acute Bronchitis


Acute bronchitis is usually due to a viral infection. Less than 10 percent of cases are due to bacterial causes. The most common viral infections are Influenza, Parainfluenza, Coronavirus, Rhinovirus, Respiratory Syncytial Virus and Human metapneumovirus. 


Patients usually present with cough, which may or may not be associated with sputum. The cough may last up to 3 weeks with the average lasting for 18 days. 

An upper respiratory tract infection or a common cold may precede the cough. 

Other symptoms include fever, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and wheezing. Coughing excessively may cause chest wall pain.


One should consider the diagnosis of acute bronchitis with a sudden onset of cough lasting 1-3 wks, without a diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or pneumonia. 

If you have fevers or paroxysms of cough with vomiting there may be another diagnosis and this should be evaluated. 

The diagnosis of chronic bronchitis is a cough for at least 3 months in two consecutive years. 

A chest x-ray may be indicated to rule out pneumonia. 


Acute bronchitis typically improves on its own. 

The treatment is usually aimed at relieving the cough. Options include throat lozenges, hot tea and avoiding smoking. Medications such as cough suppressants may be an option. If someone experiences wheezing an inhaler may be beneficial. 

Antibiotics are usually not recommended for acute bronchitis.


Complications may include pneumonia or progression to a severe bacterial infection. 


Avoiding lung irritants such as smoking, pollution, and fumes may help to prevent acute bronchitis.. One should consider getting the flu shot as well.