Acute Bronchitis - Causes & Symptoms | Health 101

Health 101

What is Bronchitis?

Chances are you’ve either had bronchitis yourself or have heard of it. Bronchitis affects the large and medium airways in the lungs. The most common form is acute bronchitis, or the chest cold.

Acute bronchitis is common. So you may wonder, “What causes acute bronchitis?” It is typically caused by a virus, but can also be caused by inhaled substances like dust, air pollution, tobacco and fumes, or bacteria1.


Acute bronchitis tends to come on suddenly. The infection lasts anywhere from three to 10 days, but the cough can continue for several weeks. Bronchitis often starts with the same symptoms you may have with a cold: runny nose, sore throat and feeling run-down, but the key sign of acute bronchitis is a hacking cough. Other symptoms may include:


  • Coughing with or without mucus production
  • No fever
  • Soreness or tenderness in the chest when coughing
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Wheezing or whistling when breathing
  • Rattling feeling in the chest
  • Mild body aches and headaches
  • Sore throat


Acute bronchitis almost always gets better on its own. Since bronchitis is typically caused by a virus, antibiotics will not help you to feel better. Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. Sometimes, when antibiotics are given unnecessarily, they can be harmful to you. Your own immune system knows how to fight acute bronchitis, so it’s important to take care of yourself when you are sick. Getting lots of rest and fluids will help your immune system fight off the infection. You can also breathe steam from a bowl or use a humidifier to help your cough. Ask your doctor if you should take over-the-counter medicines for cough, fever and cold symptoms. Your doctor may also give you an inhaler to help your cough and wheeze.


  • Wash your hands to avoid picking up the virus
  • Don’t smoke and avoid secondhand smoke, dust, chemicals, and air pollution
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Avoid others who are sick
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • Get a flu shot and ask your doctor about a pneumonia shot


If you have acute bronchitis symptoms or concerns, visit your doctor for proper diagnosis.

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