If you’ve experienced acute bronchitis in the past, you’re not alone: 10 million Americans visit a doctor for symptoms diagnosed as acute bronchitis (more often simply known as “bronchitis”) each year.  Most often, acute bronchitis becomes apparent with a cough, caused by inflammation of the airways.  Most often, acute bronchitis is caused by a viral infection like a cold or flu, though sometimes it is caused by a bacterial infection or exposure to another irritant, like chemicals. 
Acute bronchitis can also stem from sinus infections —this is for two reasons. The first being there is a theory known as the "one airway" model , indicating due to the similar cellular structure of the sinuses and lungs, the response of one will impact the response of the other, such as in the case of inflammation . The second reason is that, due to this connected airway, the infection can spread from the sinuses to the lungs, triggering inflammation. 
Acute bronchitis does not always need treatment, and can last just a few days or up to 10 days  —sometimes a cough can linger for three weeks or more.  Individuals with asthma, COPD, or other lung diseases may need extra treatment such as inhaled or oral corticosteroids to help them recover from acute bronchitis.  Individuals with lung disease like asthma may also acquire infections such as acute bronchitis more often than those without asthma. 
Preventing acute bronchitis is the same as preventing other common respiratory illnesses—frequent hand washing, avoiding people who are sick, and maintaining overall good health can help individuals with and without asthma avoid acquiring acute bronchitis. Masks may be effective in preventing some illnesses, but it is important to speak with your doctor, as they may also exacerbate breathing issues.  Avoiding smoke exposure—and quitting if you do smoke—can also help cut down on the incidence of bronchitis, both caused by infection and the irritants in cigarettes. 
Due to the link with other infections, receiving the flu shot early in flu season may also help decrease risk of acquiring bronchitis that develops as a result of another infection. For those at high risk, such as those with lung disease, their doctor may also recommend the pneumonia vaccine. If you are not sure if you need these shots, ask your doctor for more information.
Information on this page is for reference and educational purposes only. For more information about acute bronchitis, talk to your doctor or primary care provider.
Page last updated: December 20, 2018
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