Acute Bronchitis

You have acute bronchitis. This means you have a chest cold. The airways in your lungs are red and sore (inflamed). Acute means it is sudden onset.


Bronchitis is most often caused by the same virus that causes a cold.


  • Body aches.

  • Chest congestion.

  • Chills.

  • Cough.

  • Fever.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Sore throat.


Acute bronchitis is usually treated with rest, fluids, and medicines for relief of fever or cough. Most symptoms should go away after a few days or a week. Increased fluids may help thin your secretions and will prevent dehydration. Your caregiver may give you an inhaler to improve your symptoms. The inhaler reduces shortness of breath and helps control cough. You can take over-the-counter pain relievers or cough medicine to decrease coughing, pain, or fever. A cool-air vaporizer may help thin bronchial secretions and make it easier to clear your chest.

Antibiotics are usually not needed but can be prescribed if you smoke, are seriously ill, have chronic lung problems, are elderly, or you are at higher risk for developing complications. Allergies and asthma can make bronchitis worse. Repeated episodes of bronchitis may cause longstanding lung problems.

Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke. Exposure to cigarette smoke or irritating chemicals will make bronchitis worse. If you are a cigarette smoker, consider using nicotine gum or skin patches to help control withdrawal symptoms. Quitting smoking will help your lungs heal faster.

Recovery from bronchitis is often slow, but you should start feeling better after 2 to 3 days. Cough from bronchitis frequently lasts for 3 to 4 weeks.

To prevent another bout of acute bronchitis:

  • Quit smoking.

  • Wash your hands frequently to get rid of viruses or use a hand sanitizer.

  • Avoid other people with cold or virus symptoms.

  • Try not to touch your hands to your mouth, nose, or eyes.


  • You develop increased fever, chills, or chest pain.

  • You have severe shortness of breath or bloody sputum.

  • You develop dehydration, fainting, repeated vomiting, or a severe headache.

  • You have no improvement after 1 week of treatment or you get worse.


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.