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Bronchitis Symptoms and Treatment

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Bronchitis Symptoms and Treatment

Bronchitis occurs when the tubes leading to the lungs become inflamed. These tubes fill with mucus, causing a hacking cough as the body tries to get rid of it. Bronchitis is caused by either a virus or bacteria. Viral bronchitis is contagious for up to a week, while bacterial bronchitis stops being contagious around 24 hours after the treatment starts.

The colder months usually bring bronchitis symptoms, lasting up to three weeks. Viral bronchitis typically starts improving without treatment, but bacterial bronchitis requires antibiotics.

However, pneumonia is often mistaken for bronchitis because the symptoms are similar. For this reason, diagnosing bronchitis is imperative to rule out serious complications.

Symptoms of Bronchitis

Acute bronchitis symptoms include the following:

  • Stuffy nose and painful sinuses
  • Barking, productive cough
  • Wheezing and tight chest
  • Headaches
  • Body aches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Low-grade fever or chills
  • Sore throat

Chronic bronchitis symptoms include:

  • Labored breathing
  • Severe infections
  • Constant narrowing of the bronchi
  • Bluish skin
  • Loud wheezing

Many bronchitis symptoms overlap with that of pneumonia:

  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty taking a deep breath.

Bronchitis can sometimes develop into pneumonia. If a doctor diagnoses pneumonia, a severe infection was present all along.


Causes of Bronchitis

The viruses responsible for colds and flu most often cause bronchitis. It is also spread via droplets released when a sick person coughs or sneezes.

One of the leading causes of chronic bronchitis is smoking. Tobacco damages the bronchi, leaving them inflamed. Chronic bronchitis is often the result of severe asthma, sinusitis, tuberculosis, emphysema, and pulmonary fibrosis.

The most common bronchitis complication is pneumonia, which can happen when the infection isn't cleared within a couple of weeks and instead infiltrates the lungs. Pneumonia quickly becomes severe, as it causes the lungs to fill with fluid.

Those at risk of having bronchitis develop into pneumonia include:

  • Smokers
  • Those with an underlying health condition
  • People who recently recovered from illness or are still sick
  • Older adults and babies
  • People with a weak immune system

Diagnosing Bronchitis

Before diagnosing bronchitis, the doctor asks the patient about their symptoms and whether they have any underlying lung or health conditions. If the patient has had symptoms longer than three weeks, the doctor may order a blood test and chest X-ray to check for infection.

Thorough testing is necessary because bronchitis symptoms could also be related to GERD, COVID-19, asthma, and pneumonia.

Bronchitis Treatment

Acute bronchitis treatment consists of the following:

  • Rest and plenty of fluids
  • A cough suppressant for a dry cough
  • Using a humidifier at night
  • Painkillers
  • Inhalers (bronchodilators)

Chronic bronchitis treatment includes the following:

  • A program or advice on how to stop smoking
  • Oral medications
  • Bronchodilators
  • Portable oxygen
  • Severe chronic bronchitis may require lung reduction surgery

Preventing Bronchitis

The best way to prevent bronchitis is to reduce the risk of catching a respiratory virus. You can take the following steps:

  • Frequent hand washing or using 70% alcohol sanitizer
  • Flu or pneumonia vaccinations for high-risk patients
  • Limiting exposure to irritants such as smoke

Preventing chronic bronchitis requires no aerosol use, no smoking, and wearing a mask in areas with large volumes of dust or strong scents.

Baptist Emergency Room & Urgent Care

Visit Baptist Emergency Room & Urgent Care for Bronchitis Treatment

Baptist Emergency Room & Urgent Care's emergency room is open 24/7, and urgent care is available from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. Appointments are unnecessary - walk in, and our healthcare professionals are ready to help at both of our locations.

Navarre - 8888 Navarre Pkwy., Navarre, FL 32566. Call the center at 850-750-5698.

Nine Mile - 9400 University Parkway Suite 101A Pensacola, FL 32514. Call the center at 448-227-4600.

Baptist Emergency Room & Urgent Care is comprised of board-certified ER-trained physicians and professionally trained ER nurses who deliver quality medical care. Our urgent care and emergency room can effectively treat various medical conditions. From fever to fractures, allergies to abdominal pain, and colds to concussions, we have you covered with on-site labs, CT, X-rays, and ultrasound.