Acute bronchitis is a respiratory illness that involves inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which carry air to the lungs. It is typically caused by a viral infection and is characterized by coughing, chest discomfort, and production of sputum. In this article, we will discuss the case, pathophysiology, signs and symptoms, investigations, treatment, and advise (dos and don’ts) for acute bronchitis.
Mary, a 35-year-old woman, presented with a persistent cough and shortness of breath for the past five days. She reports having a low-grade fever, chills, and fatigue. She denies any chest pain, wheezing, or difficulty breathing. Mary is a non-smoker and has no prior history of respiratory illnesses.
Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a viral infection, such as the common cold or flu. The virus causes inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which leads to swelling and narrowing of the airways. This can result in a cough, chest discomfort, and production of sputum. In some cases, bacteria may also be involved in the infection, leading to more severe symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms:
The most common symptoms of acute bronchitis include:
Coughing: It may be dry or may produce phlegm.
Shortness of breath: It may be mild to severe, depending on the severity of inflammation.
Chest discomfort: It may feel like a tightness or pressure in the chest.
Fatigue: The body may feel weak and tired.
Low-grade fever: The body temperature may be slightly elevated.
Chills: The body may feel cold and shivery.
The diagnosis of acute bronchitis is usually based on the clinical presentation and physical examination. However, if the symptoms persist for more than a week or if there are other concerning signs, the following investigations may be recommended:
Chest X-ray: To rule out other respiratory conditions, such as pneumonia.
Pulmonary function tests: To assess lung function and detect any underlying respiratory problems.
Sputum culture: To identify any bacteria or fungi that may be causing the infection.
The treatment for acute bronchitis usually involves supportive care, such as rest, hydration, and over-the-counter medications to relieve symptoms. Antibiotics are not recommended unless there is evidence of a bacterial infection. The following treatments may be recommended:
Rest: To allow the body to recover.
Hydration: To keep the body hydrated and help loosen the mucus.
Cough suppressants: To relieve coughing and improve sleep.
Bronchodilators: To open up the airways and ease breathing.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): To relieve fever and pain.
Advise (Dos and Don’ts):
The following advice may be given to a patient with acute bronchitis:
Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids, such as water and herbal tea, to keep the body hydrated and help loosen the mucus.
Rest: Get plenty of rest to allow the body to recover.
Use a humidifier: To help moisten the air and ease breathing.
Take over-the-counter medications: To relieve symptoms, such as coughing, fever, and pain.
Smoke or be around smokers: Smoking can worsen symptoms and increase the risk of complications.
Ignore severe symptoms: Seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or if there are signs of complications, such as shortness of breath or chest pain.
Acute Bronchitis. American Lung Association.
National Institute of Health. Acute Bronchitis. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/acute-bronchitis
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Acute Bronchitis. https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/community/for-patients/common-illnesses/bronchitis.html
American Academy of Family Physicians. Acute Bronchitis. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2017/0215/p229.html
Mayo Clinic. Acute Bronchitis. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/acute-bronchitis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350908
British Lung Foundation. Acute Bronchitis. https://www.blf.org.uk/support-for-you/acute-bronchitis