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Acute bronchitis

Written by Healthwords's team of doctors and pharmacists based in UK | Updated: 21.02.2023 | 2 min read

Acute bronchitis is when someone has short-lived bronchitis symptoms, typically lasting around three weeks and commonly caused by a viral infection.

Bronchitis is an infection or inflammation of the bronchi, the lungs' largest airways. These airways have a protective mechanism built into them where they produce mucus. This traps anything unwelcome in the airways and could harm the lungs.

When someone has bronchitis, something irritates the airways, causing increased mucus production. This leads to the body trying to get rid of the mucus and causes a productive cough.

Is it contagious?

Acute bronchitis can be caused by infections that may be contagious, but the condition itself is not contagious.

Caidr pharmacists' top tips

If your cough is productive (chesty cough) with mucus or a dry tickly cough, there are different treatments we would recommend trying.

For chesty coughs, treatment with a cough mixture containing guaifenesin or herbal alternatives containing marshmallow and thyme extract may help to help loosen and expel excess mucus to clear the chest.

For dry and tickly coughs at the back of the throat that are particularly troublesome and frequent, a product such as simple throat lozenges can help. It works by coating the back of the throat to relieve the coughing sensation and does not generally cause drowsiness. Another option is to use a cough suppressant such as dextromethorphan, which can help reduce the cough frequency.

If you have asthma or other lung conditions, then you should ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice, as some medications could make your chest tighter or make your asthma or wheezing worse.

Acetaminophen can also be used to relieve mild fever and pain.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any worrying symptoms, such as shortness of breath, chest pain, fever, or feeling severely unwell, then you should seek urgent medical advice.

If you have had a cough for more than three weeks, then it would be best to discuss it with your doctor. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and examine you, and come up with the best next steps.

Am I fit for work?

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may be fit for work.

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