- Dr. Hicks
I think I might have bronchitis. What should I do?
Acute bronchitis is characterized by a cough lasting at least 5 days caused by inflammation of the airways. This temporarily narrows them, making it hard to breathe. Typical symptoms include chest congestion, coughing, fatigue, wheezing. It often follows a common cold, and symptoms can overlap, with runny nose, sore throat and headache of the cold initially, and those of bronchitis developing later. Most acute bronchitis is caused by infections, more than 90% of which are viral. It usually goes away on its own in one to three weeks, and antibiotics — which work only on bacteria — rarely help. What does help is plenty of rest, extra fluids, steam from a shower or a bowl of hot water, over the counter cough remedies, and boosting the immune system. However, if you have a fever over 100.4, bloody mucous, wheezing, shortness of breath or chest pain, or if the cough lasts more than 3 weeks or keeps returning, you should visit an urgent care facility or your primary care physician. Any of those things mean it could be something more serious, such as asthma or pneumonia. Prevention is always the best (and cheapest) medicine. So, cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, wash your hands often, stay away from people who are sick and stay home if you are, don’t smoke, avoid second hand smoke, and keep up to date with recommended vaccines to help prevent bronchitis.