Acute Bronchitis

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

Acute bronchitis is swelling and irritation in the air passages of your lungs. This irritation may cause you to cough or have other breathing problems. Acute bronchitis often starts because of another viral illness, such as a cold or the flu. The illness spreads from your nose and throat to your windpipe and airways. Bronchitis is often called a chest cold. Acute bronchitis lasts about 2 weeks and is usually not a serious illness.

CARE AGREEMENT:

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

RISKS:

Your bronchitis may turn into a serious infection, such as pneumonia. The chance your bronchitis will become a serious illness is increased if you have other health problems.

WHILE YOU ARE HERE:

Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

An IV

is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.

Oxygen:

You may need extra oxygen if your blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. You may get oxygen through a mask placed over your nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in your nostrils. Ask your caregiver before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.

Rest:

Keep the head of your bed raised to help you breathe easier. You can also raise your head and shoulders up on pillows or rest in a reclining chair. If you feel short of breath, let caregivers know right away.

Monitoring:

  • Vital signs: Caregivers will check your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask about your pain. These vital signs give caregivers information about your current health.

  • Pulse oximeter: A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your finger, ear, or toe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine. Never turn the pulse oximeter or alarm off. An alarm will sound if your oxygen level is low or cannot be read.

  • Heart monitor: This is also called an ECG or EKG. Sticky pads placed on your skin record your heart's electrical activity.

Tests:

  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.

  • Blood gases: This is also called an arterial blood gas, or ABG. Blood is taken from an artery (blood vessel) in your wrist, arm, or groin. Your blood is tested for the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in it. The results can tell caregivers how well your lungs are working.

  • Chest x-ray: This is a picture of your lungs and heart. Caregivers use it to see how your lungs and heart are doing. Caregivers may use the x-ray to look for signs of infection like pneumonia, or to look for collapsed lungs. Chest x-rays may show tumors, broken ribs, or fluid around the heart and lungs.

  • Sputum sample: Sputum (mucus from your lungs) is collected in a cup when you cough. The sample is sent to a lab to be tested for the germ that is causing your illness. It can also help your caregiver choose the best medicine to treat the infection.

Medicines:

  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen: Ibuprofen or acetaminophen are medicines that help decrease your fever. You do not need a doctor's order for these medicines.

  • Steroid medicine: Steroid medicine helps open your air passages so you can breathe easier.

  • Antiviral medicine: Antiviral medicine may be given to fight an infection caused by a virus.

Treatments:

  • Breathing treatments: You may need breathing treatments to help open your airways so you can breathe easier. A machine is used to change liquid medicine into a mist. You will breathe the mist into your lungs through tubing and a mouthpiece. Inhaled mist medicines act quickly on your airways and lungs to relieve your symptoms.

  • Deep breathing and coughing: Deep breathing helps open the air passages in your lungs. Coughing helps bring up sputum (mucus) from your lungs. To do this, take a deep breath and hold the breath in as long as you can. Then push the air out of your lungs with a deep, strong cough. Put any coughed-up sputum into a tissue and throw it in the trash. Take 10 deep breaths each hour that you are awake. Follow each deep breath with a cough.

  • Postural drainage (PD): This treatment uses body position and gravity to help bring up sputum (mucus) from your lungs. Your caregiver will place you in different positions to help the sputum drain to larger air passages. Then you can cough it out more easily. During postural drainage, your caregiver may also lightly clap on your back and chest with their hands, or use a small machine that vibrates on your skin. This breaks up the sputum in your lungs, making it easier to cough up. Postural drainage may make it easier for you to breathe, decrease the chance of infection, and help you get better faster.

  • Ventilator: If your bronchitis is severe, you may need a ventilator. This is a machine that can breathe for you if you cannot breathe well on your own. You may have an endotracheal tube (ET tube) in your mouth or nose. A tube called a trach may go into an incision in the front of your neck. The ET tube or trach is hooked to a ventilator. Oxygen can also be given to you by the ventilator.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Acute Bronchitis (Inpatient Care)

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