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Acute Bronchitis

Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger HendersonReviewed on 29.04.2024 | 3 minutes read
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Acute bronchitis (inflammation of the airways) is when someone has symptoms such as a cough (you may cough up clear or coloured mucus), shortness of breath, a fever, and a runny nose or sore throat. These symptoms are short-lived, typically lasting around three weeks and commonly caused by a viral infection.

Bronchitis is an infection or inflammation of the bronchi, which are the largest airways of the lungs. These airways have a protective mechanism built into them where they produce mucus that traps anything that isn’t welcome in the airways and which could be harmful to the lungs.

When someone has bronchitis, something has irritated the airways causing increased production of mucus – typically a viral or bacterial infection. This leads to the body trying to get rid of the mucus and causes a productive cough.

Doctor’s advice

Is it contagious?

Acute bronchitis can be caused by infections that may be contagious, but the condition itself is not contagious.

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

If your cough is productive (chesty cough) with mucus, or a dry cough, there are different treatments we would recommend trying.

For chesty coughs, treatment with a cough mixture containing guaifenesin, or herbal alternatives containing marshmallow and thyme extract may help to help loosen and expel excess mucus to clear the chest.

For dry and tickly coughs at the back of the throat that is particularly troublesome and frequent, then a product such as simple linctus can help. It works by coating the back of the throat to relieve the sensation to cough, and does not generally cause drowsiness. Another option is to use a cough suppressant such as pholcodine linctus, or medication containing dextromethorphan, which can help to reduce the frequency of cough.

If you have asthma or other lung conditions then you should ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice, as some medications could make your chest tighter, or make your asthma or wheezing worse.

Paracetamol can also be used to relieve mild fever and pain.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any worrying symptoms, such as shortness of breath, chest pain when coughing or breathing, coughing up blood, a high fever or feeling severely unwell then you should seek urgent medical advice.

If you have had a cough for more than three weeks then it would be best to discuss it with your doctor. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and examine you, and come up with the best next steps. If your bronchitis is caused by a bacterial infection, you may need treating with antibiotics.

Am I fit for work?

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may be fit for work.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 29.04.2024
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