Acute bronchitis is inflammation of the windpipe (trachea) and the airways that branch off the trachea (bronchi) caused by infection.
Acute bronchitis is usually caused by viral infections.
Symptoms of the common cold that are followed by a cough usually indicate acute bronchitis.
The diagnosis is made based primarily on symptoms.
Most treatments, such as drugs to reduce fever and cough, are used to make the person more comfortable until the episode ends.
Antibiotics are usually not needed.
Bronchitis can be either acute or chronic.
Symptoms of acute bronchitis usually last days to a few weeks. However, bronchitis that lasts up to 90 days is still usually classified as acute bronchitis. Bronchitis that lasts longer, sometimes for months or years, is usually classified as chronic bronchitis. When people say "bronchitis," they usually mean acute bronchitis.
When chronic bronchitis occurs together with a decrease in the rate of airflow from the lungs when the person breathes out (expiratory airflow), it is considered a defining characteristic of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This chapter discusses acute bronchitis only.
Exposure to irritants, such as smoke, smog, dust particles, and fumes (from irritants such as strong acids, ammonia, some organic solvents, chlorine, hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, and bromine), can also inflame the windpipe and bronchi, causing symptoms similar to those of acute bronchitis.