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Symptoms and Signs of Acute Bronchitis

Doctor's Notes on Acute Bronchitis Contagious, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Home Remedies, and Antibiotics

Acute bronchitis refers to inflammation of the bronchi, or large airways, within the lungs. The term acute implies that this is an illness that has come on suddenly rather than a longstanding problem such as chronic bronchitis. Viral and bacterial infections are the most common causes of acute bronchitis, and a number of different viruses and bacteria may cause this condition. Irritants to the airways like pollution or smoke may also cause acute bronchitis, but these are less common causes than infections.

Symptoms of acute bronchitis include cough and sputum production (coughing up phlegm). Associated signs and symptoms can include headache, sore throat, nasal congestion (stuffy nose), shortness of breath, muscle aches, wheezing, and fatigue. Mild fever and chills as well as chest discomfort may also be present. Symptoms tend to last about 10-20 days.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Acute Bronchitis Contagious, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Home Remedies, and Antibiotics Symptoms

Inflammation of the bronchial tubes narrows the inside opening of the bronchial tubes. Narrowing of the bronchial tubes result in increased resistance, this increase makes it more difficult for air to move to and from the lungs. This can cause:

  • wheezing,
  • coughing,
  • chest pain, and
  • shortness of breath.

The cough may consist of sputum due to the secretions from the inflamed cells that line the bronchi. By coughing, the body attempts to expel secretions that clog the bronchial tubes. If these secretions contain certain inflammatory cells, discoloration of the mucus may result often in a green or yellow color. Sometimes the severity of the inflammation may result in some bleeding.

As with any other infection, there may be associated fever, chills, aches, soreness and the general sensation of feeling poorly or malaise.

Acute Bronchitis Contagious, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Home Remedies, and Antibiotics Causes

Acute bronchitis occurs most often due to a viral infection that causes the inner lining of the bronchial tubes to become inflamed and undergo the changes that occur with any inflammation in the body. Common viruses include the rhinovirus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and the influenza virus (flu). Bacteria can also cause bronchitis (a few examples include, Mycoplasma, Pneumococcus, Klebsiella, Haemophilus). Chemical irritants (for example, tobacco smoke, gastric reflux, solvents) can cause acute bronchitis.

Anatomically, the larynx divides the upper and lower airways. Colds tend to affect the mouth, throat, and nasal passages while bronchitis describes specific inflammation of the bronchial tubes. The two illnesses can exist at the same time and may be caused by the same virus infection. A cold does not necessarily lead to bronchitis.

Bronchitis Symptoms and Treatments Slideshow

Bronchitis Symptoms and Treatments Slideshow

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways in the lungs. The main tubes that air flows through in the lungs are called bronchi, and branching off them are smaller tubes called bronchioles. When these tubes become inflamed it causes narrowing, constriction, and blockage of the airways, which leads to symptoms of bronchitis. Bronchitis can be acute, lasting less than six weeks, or chronic, recurring multiple times for more than two years.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.