Healthy Living

What is Acute Bronchitis?

What is Acute Bronchitis?

What is Bronchitis?

We often run under weather catching a flu or a cold that stays on for a couple of days to weeks, after which we normally get back to normal. However, sometimes even a small infection of cold or flu, could turn into a bronchitis infection causing much disturbance to your normal living. In case of a bronchitis, the tubes which carry air to and fro the lungs tend to get inflamed as a response to the infection. The airways get clogged with mucus secretions all together which makes breathing difficult for a person. Bronchitis can happen to anyone at any age, however when it strikes small children or the elderly, it becomes all the more challenging to manage.

What is Acute Bronchitis and Is Acute Bronchitis Contagious?

Acute bronchitis is an inflammation of the inner lining of the bronchial tubes, which lasts no longer than 10 days. When these bronchial tubes become inflamed, the mucus starts to build up leading to a cough and shortness of breath.


It is very important to make the difference between acute and chronic bronchitis. As mentioned before acute bronchitis usually lasts no longer than 10 days and its signs and symptoms tend to be less severe when compared to chronic bronchitis which represents a chronic inflammation of the inner lining of the bronchial tubes, characterized by a persistent cough for a couple of weeks, sometimes months and even years. Chronic bronchitis can lead to serious complications like chronic pulmonary obstructive syndrome and emphysema, which are even life–threatening diseases of the lungs.

What causes Acute Bronchitis?

Viral infections of the upper respiratory system are the most common causes of acute bronchitis. Influenza end even common cold often lead to acute bronchitis. In rare cases, the Bordetella pertussis bacteria causes acute bronchitis. Bordetella pertussis bacteria is the one that causes of a whooping cough.

Signs and symptoms of Acute Bronchitis

The signs and symptoms of acute bronchitis are not specific and they usually start with low-grade fever, chest pain, chest tightness, chronic cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness and even a sore throat due to persistent coughing.  A runny nose and even muscle pain are also common, especially among children.

When to see a Doctor?

  • You should get medical help in cases when:
  • You are having cough for more than 10 days
  • You are having difficulty breathing
  • You are having an unexpected loss of weight
  • You are having chest pain

How is Acute Bronchitis diagnosed?

Acute bronchitis tends to resolve on its own and no further testing and examinations are necessary. However, in certain cases when your doctor is not sure about the diagnosis or when you are having severe signs and symptoms that last longer different examinations and tests are recommended. A complete blood count, X-rays or even sputum examination are necessary.

How is acute bronchitis treated?

In many cases acute bronchitis resolves on its own, without prescription medications. Keep in mind that acute bronchitis is an inflammation of the inner lining of the bronchial tubes due to a viral infection. And since it is a viral infection antibiotic treatment is not necessary. Over-the-counter NSAIDS, humidifiers, bed rest and drinking a lot of fluids will do their work.

However, if you are having a high fever, persistent cough, excessive mucus secretion, a shortness of breath or other breathing difficulties you should talk to your doctor. In these cases, prescription medicines might be necessary. Inhaled medications are often prescribed in order to open the airways. When a secondary bacterial infection is suspected, antibacterial medications are recommended.

Most of the times acute bronchitis are treated at home following the below mentioned steps:

  • Increasing fluid intake and completely avoiding caffeine, alcohol and sweetened beverages. It is best to just stick to warm water.
  • Get adequate rest and sleep well.
  • There are medications available to help you get rid of your symptoms like inflammation, fever and pain. It is best to seek advice from the treating doctor on the best medicines that can be helpful in the condition.
  • Use medications to thin the cough. For older children children, cough syrups can be given to give relief from the inbuilt cough and cold symptoms.
  • To help breathe better, increase the humidity in the room you are resting by using a steam or a humidifier.

Prognosis of Acute Bronchitis

Acute bronchitis tends to resolve on its own, even without prescribed medication. It resolves usually within 10 days. However, due to secondary bacterial infections its treatment may last longer.

In most of the cases, acute bronchitis does not cause long-term health problems.

The most important thing is to prevent acute bronchitis. This includes practicing a good hygiene and unnecessary contact with people suffering from acute bronchitis. Washing your hands regularly, especially during the cold season can help you avoid a viral infection.

Can Acute Bronchitis Get Complicated?

Acute bronchitis is not usually fatal in nature. It is one of those normal cold and coughs that cause some breathing discomfort and is normally temporary in nature. However, acute bronchitis in case of small infants could be triggered by a viral infection, which could be complicated in itself. The biggest risk associated with acute bronchitis is the infection turning into a chronic bronchitis which eventually could be fatal. Chances of acute bronchitis turning into a chronic one are high when it comes to smokers and the elderly with compromised immune system.

Who is at High risk of Acute Bronchitis?

Acute bronchitis cases are largely seen among school going children and largely in  case of children going to day care centres. Some of the common risk factors that put one at high risk of acquiring the acute bronchitis infection are:

  • Establishing close contact with people who are already infected by an acute bronchitis infection;
  • Not obtaining appropriate shots and vaccines that prevent one from the risk of acute bronchitis infection;
  • Constant exposure to harmful gases and fumes of tobacco smoke, dust and pollution could also increase the chances of acute bronchitis.

Treating Acute Bronchitis Symptoms Using Natural Remedies

People suffering from acute bronchitis symptoms often resort to over the counter drugs to get rid of their symptoms. However, there are a number of natural remedies also that have their proven efficacy to relieve acute bronchitis symptoms:

1. Ginger: Ginger is one of the best remedies for treating the symptoms associated with common cold, and is also helpful in dealing with symptoms of bronchitis. There are certain anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties that are found in ginger that eventually help with relieving irritation and inflammation of bronchial tubes. Ginger can be consumed in several ways to get instant relief from bronchitis symptoms like:

  • Mix half a teaspoon of crushed ginger or the powder along with cinnamon and cloves. Seep this mix into hot cup of water. Stir well till the extract blends in the water. Keep drinking this to get relief for a few days.
  • Herbal tea using ginger power and black pepper powder added to a cup of hot boiling water also helps in treating the symptoms associated with bronchitis. Allow the mixed powders to seep well in the water. You can also add in some honey and drink  this tea upto twice a day.
  • Mix together some ginger powder, pepper and cloves and consume this mix with some honey or milk upto three times a day.

2. Garlic: Loaded with several antibiotic and anti-viral properties, garlic is found to be a highly effective treatment, when it comes to treating bronchitis particularly acute bronchitis. Boil a few cloves of garlic in some milk and drink this just before going to sleep for speedy recovery.

3. Turmeric: Turmeric is a well known herb in ayurvedic medicine at it has properties that help in treating several ailments. It has some anti-inflammatory properties that are helpful in treating cough that is commonly associated with bronchitis. This remedy also helps in getting rid of the excessive mucus accumulation in the body due to the infection. The best way to consume turmeric powder is by mixing it with a glass of hot milk and drinking this before bedtime.

4. Eucalyptus oil: Steam therapy is one of the best ways to deal with acute bronchitis. Adding a few drops of the essential eucalyptus oil in the hot water helps in opening up the airways. It also has certain antibacterial properties that largely help in the process of healing the affected airways.

Just add in a few drops of essential eucalyptus oil into some boiling water and take the steam using a towel. If you don't have eucalyptus oil then you can also use other strong essential oils like pine oil or the tea tree oil. Eucalyptus oil found in vapour rubs is also very useful in soothing chest congestion as it helps in excreting out the mucus and improving the respiratory system.

5. Salt Water: Gargling  with salt water is an age old remedy to soothe irritated throat due to the cough and cold virus. Gargle several times a day to treat a number of bronchitis symptoms. Just add about a teaspoon of salt in a glass of lukewarm water and gargle with it to get immediate relief.

Do not use excess salt as that could act as an irritant to the throat and too little salt may have absolutely no effect on the throat irritation.

6. Honey: Honey is filled with natural anti bacterial properties that are extremely helpful in treating cough and cold symptoms which include bronchitis symptoms as well. The antiviral properties present in honey  have a very soothing impact on the throat. Honey also gives a healthy boost to the immune system causing it to fight the viruses and the germs on its own from within.