Bronchitis – Acute inflammation of the bronchi

Thanks to blood tests and analysis, it is now possible to decide on the best treatment for both viruses and bacteria.

Bronchitis is acute inflammation of the bronchi, the largest branches in the respiratory tract that go from the trachea to the lungs. It makes the bronchi more narrow due to swelling and increased mucous production.

It causes coughing, and it can often be harder to breath, especially during activity.

Bronchitis is the result of a cold or a flu-like infection, and it is almost always caused by a virus. It is fairly common, not at all dangerous and in most cases it goes away by itself.

The most common time of the year for getting bronchitis is the autumn or winter.

Symptoms of bronchitis

The most typical symptom of bronchitis is a cough. The cough may persist all day long – both day and night. It can be with or without mucous.

Bronchitis goes away in about a week, but the cough may persist for up to four weeks. It is usually caused by a virus, and it may often cause a mild fever.

Other potential symptoms of bronchitis are pain/soreness in the chest, usually during or after coughing. Due to the large quantities of mucous in the airways, it may be harder to breath, especially during excessive activity.

Sick child taking antibiotics

Treatment and prevention
In most cases, bronchitis is caused by a virus. As with the vast majority of viral infections, there is no specific treatment.

Bronchitis goes away by itself solely as a consequence of your own immunological defence. With bronchitis, as with all infections, it is important to drink plenty of fluids and to rest.

Fever can be treated with an antipyretic (Paracetamol) if necessary. If bronchitis has been caused by a bacterium, then treatment with antibiotics may be necessary.

To avoid bronchitis, it is necessary to avoid both smoking and passive smoking. It is also important to keep your hands clean in order to avoid spreading/passing on bronchitis.

Investigation and diagnosis
Bronchitis causes coughing, with or without mucous, which persists all day long – both day and night.

When the lungs are listened to using a stethoscope, whistling sounds can be heard when breathing out and rattling noises when breathing in. These are caused by narrow and mucous-coated airways.

An inflammatory marker (CRP) can help in determining whether the bronchitis is caused by a virus or by a bacterium. Low values of inflammatory marker (CRP) indicates a virus, while high values indicate a bacterium.

We also do a blood count, which shows the significant activity of the white blood corpuscles from our defence system. If there are bacteria present, this will be clearly shown in our blood count.

It may be necessary to use a pulse oximeter to measure oxygen in the blood if you are very short-winded.

A lot of our older patients have a number of underlying conditions, so carrying out a good investigation with blood tests provides considerable security.

Starting antibiotics without an investigation with a blood test is a treatment that we no longer consider safe.

A cold woman sits on a light couch wrapped in a blue checkered whip. She holds her hands behind her throat.

Causes of bronchitis

Bronchitis is usually the result of a cold or flu-like infection, in other words an upper respiratory tract infection. Bronchitis is most commonly caused by a virus (influenza virus, RS virus).

If a virus is not the cause, then it is bacteria. In rare cases the symptoms may be persistent, and complications may arise. In these cases, a more serious bacterial infection will be suspected.

Prognosis for bronchitis

Bronchitis is common and it usually occurs in the autumn or winter. It is normally a mild illness that goes away by itself.

The cough that accompanies bronchitis may persist for up to four weeks. If the patient has a poor general condition and also lung/heart disease, the safest thing to do is to see a doctor for an investigation and a blood test.

Facts about bronchitis

  • Bronchitis is acute inflammation of the bronchi, the largest branches in the respiratory tract that go from the trachea to the lungs.
  • Bronchitis causes a cough.
  • Often it may also be harder to breath, especially during activity.
  • Bronchitis is the result of a cold or a flu-like infection, and it is almost always caused by a virus.
  • Bronchitis is fairly common, not at all dangerous and in most cases it goes away by itself.
  • The most common time of the year for getting bronchitis is the autumn or winter.

Doctor auscultating his patients back