Everything You Need To Know About Bronchitis

Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant

Acute bronchitis is one of the most common respiratory illnesses, especially during cold and flu season, due to its contagious nature. Chronic bronchitis is most commonly caused by smoking cigarettes and is not spread by skin-to-skin contact. Here’s what you need to know about acute bronchitis:

1. Bronchitis is an infection of the lower respiratory tract.

Bronchitis is an inflammation or infection of the bronchial tubes, which are the tubes that carry air to and from your lungs.  Bronchitis is different from pneumonia, which is an infection in the lungs.

2. 95% of bronchitis cases are caused by viruses.

In healthy patients who are non-smokers, up to 95% of bronchitis cases are caused by viruses, including influenza, adenovirus and parainfluenza.

3. There are several ways to prevent bronchitis.

There are several things you can do to lower your risk of contracting this infection.  By washing your hands frequently, getting a flu shot, drinking water, avoiding tobacco use and limiting your exposure to second-hand smoke, you can take steps to avoid bronchitis.

4. Bronchitis can last for up to three weeks.

Symptoms of bronchitis include a cough, chest discomfort, fatigue and, occasionally, a low grade fever and chills.  Bronchitis usually resolves on its own, but it can take up to three weeks for the symptoms to completely clear.

5. At home remedies can help alleviate bronchitis symptoms

Because the symptoms can last for so long, it’s important to take steps at home to alleviate them. At home treatments include over-the-counter medication to reduce pain and fever, plenty of fluids (hot tea with lemon and honey soothes the throat), and extra sleep.

6. Antibiotics are not usually indicated.

While there are several prescription medications that can improve the symptoms of bronchitis, antibiotics are rarely indicated.  In fact, bronchitis is one of the most common reasons why antibiotics are unnecessarily prescribed in the U.S.  Because 95% of bronchitis infections are caused by viruses, antibiotics are not useful, since antibiotics only kill bacteria and are ineffective against viral infections. 

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If you have a cough for more than 7 days, shortness of breath, or a long-lasting fever you should see a healthcare provider. At GoHealth Urgent Care, we’re here for you 7 days a week and can help diagnose your respiratory illness. Save your spot online or simply walk in.