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Acute Bronchitis in Adults

What is it? Acute bronchitis (bron-ki-tis) is swelling and irritation of the windpipe (trachea) or the airways to the lungs. It occurs most often in the winter and usually starts as a cold. The cold then spreads from the nose and throat to the windpipe and airways. Bronchitis is usually not a serious illness. Most people may be treated at home.

Causes: It is usually caused by germs that are called viruses or bacteria (bak-teer-e-uh). The germs are spread in the air or by being around someone who is sick. Other causes may be allergies or breathing air that has chemical fumes, dust, or smoke. You may be more likely to get bronchitis if you have lung disease or smoke. Being sick with another illness may increase your chances of getting bronchitis.

Signs and Symptoms: The most common sign is a dry cough. Your cough may bring up sputum (phlegm). You may have a fever and chest pain. Other signs may be noisy breathing (wheezing) or trouble breathing.

Care: Most people with acute bronchitis may be treated at home. You may need cough medicine to help your cough and to thin the sputum. Antibiotic (an-ti-bi-ah-tik) medicine may be needed if your bronchitis is caused by bacteria. You may need to be put into the hospital for tests and treatment if your bronchitis does not get better.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about bronchitis and how it can be treated. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care will be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.