What are the Symptoms of Acute Bronchitis?

Acute bronchitis is a common respiratory condition characterized by inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from the lungs. It is typically caused by a viral infection and can lead to a range of symptoms. Common symptoms of acute bronchitis include:

  • Cough: A persistent, often productive cough is the hallmark symptom of acute bronchitis. The cough may produce mucus or phlegm, which can be clear, white, yellow, or green.
  • Sore Throat: Many people with acute bronchitis experience a sore or irritated throat, especially in the early stages.
  • Hoarseness: Your voice may become hoarse or raspy due to throat irritation.
  • Chest Discomfort: Mild discomfort or a feeling of tightness in the chest is common.
  • Shortness of Breath: Some individuals may experience shortness of breath, particularly during physical activity.
  • Fatigue: Generalized tiredness and fatigue are common symptoms, as the body fights off the infection.
  • Mild Fever: A low-grade fever may be present, especially if the acute bronchitis is caused by a bacterial infection.
  • Wheezing: Wheezing or a whistling sound when breathing can occur, particularly in people with a history of asthma.
  • Runny or Stuffy Nose: Acute bronchitis can be accompanied by upper respiratory symptoms, including nasal congestion or a runny nose.
  • Body Aches: Muscle aches and discomfort throughout the body are possible.
  • Headache: Some individuals may experience a mild headache.

Symptoms of acute bronchitis usually develop over a few days and can last for up to a few weeks. It’s important to note that acute bronchitis is typically caused by a viral infection, so antibiotics are not effective for its treatment unless it is complicated by a bacterial infection.

Treatment for acute bronchitis typically focuses on symptom relief and includes:

  • Rest: Get plenty of rest to allow your body to recover.
  • Hydration: Drink plenty of fluids to stay well-hydrated.
  • Cough Suppressants: Over-the-counter cough medications may help with symptom relief.
  • Pain Relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can alleviate fever, sore throat, and body aches.

If your symptoms are severe, last longer than a few weeks, or worsen over time, it’s advisable to seek medical attention. Additionally, if you have underlying health conditions like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you should contact a healthcare professional, as acute bronchitis can exacerbate these conditions. In some cases, healthcare providers may recommend specific treatments, such as bronchodilators for wheezing or inhaled corticosteroids for individuals with a history of asthma.