Acute bronchitis: symptoms and diagnosis

Acute bronchitis is one of the most common respiratory diseases. About 80 out of every 100, 000 people contract this inflammation of the bronchial mucosa every week. This number can even double in the winter months. Here you will find everything about the causes, the symptoms and the course of acute bronchitis.

What is acute bronchitis?

Bronchitis is a mucosal inflammation of the tracheal branches (bronchi). One distinguishes the feverish, acute bronchitis from the chronic bronchitis.

The disease occurs most often in a humid-cold weather like spring, autumn or winter and is usually associated with inflammation of the trachea (tracheitis). Mostly, the disease is a consequence of a viral upper respiratory infection.

Causes of acute bronchitis

Very often, acute bronchitis occurs when the person has previously been exposed to wet, humid climates or hypothermia. Such influences weaken the body's resistance and cause increased susceptibility to pathogens, with viruses being the most common cause of acute bronchitis. The viruses are contagious and are transmitted via the droplet infection. They pave the way for subsequent infection with bacteria.

Sometimes acute bronchitis is also caused by chemical stimuli (for example, inhalation of smoke or acids). In addition, acute bronchitis may develop as a concomitant disease of some infectious diseases such as influenza, measles or whooping cough.

Acute Bronchtis: especially common in children

Infants and children in particular often develop acute bronchitis. But as long as there's no identifiable, serious cause behind it, that's not worrying. Children are more likely to suffer from infections or colds than adults.

Symptoms, course and duration of acute bronchitis

These are the signs of viral bronchitis:

  • The uncomplicated viral bronchitis begins for a short time with cold, hoarseness, cervical, head and body aches and a general malaise as a sign of an upper respiratory tract infection.
  • Afterwards, a dry cough with initially clear, tenacious expectoration occurs, especially in the morning, which soon turns whitish and slimy-purulent.
  • Often the patient complains of chest pain or burning in the chest.
  • Fever above 39 ° C is rare.
  • In addition, the throat is red.
  • When listening to the lungs, the doctor hears a few, so-called rattle sounds.

At the latest after the occurrence of the mucous expectoration, it is advisable to go to the doctor. After all, a persistent cough and mucus that fixes in the long run can damage the mucous membrane layers and put a heavy strain on the body. In addition, the mucus is an ideal breeding ground for viruses and bacteria - therefore, if necessary, measures should be taken to remove the mucus.

Normally, the acute viral bronchitis clears within a few days and usually heals by itself.

Bacterial bronchitis

If, however, as a result of a viral infection, bacterial bronchitis occurs, the sputum changes and becomes yellowish or greenish and slimy-purulent. Frequently, the affected person suffers from respiratory sounds and sometimes even short of breath. Healing in this case is usually only possible by treatment with antibiotics.

Without treatment, the bacterial infection of the bronchi can spread to the surrounding lung tissue. It then creates pneumonia. For this reason, a doctor should always be consulted if the symptoms do not disappear by themselves after a few days, or if traces of blood are visible in the coughed mucus.

Diagnosis of acute bronchitis

An in-depth examination should definitely be done for acute bronchitis. Particularly important is the listening of the lungs, in time to detect the first signs of pneumonia. If there is a suspicion that there is bronchopneumonia behind the disease, an X-ray of the chest should be arranged.

In addition, the blood can be examined. As a sign of acute inflammation, C-reactive protein, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and white blood cell count increase. In the stage of slimy-purulent ejection, this should be examined for bacterial germs. After the examination, an antibiotic which acts only against these bacteria can be administered in a targeted manner.

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