Viral infections attacking the respiratory tract and the bronchial tubes are the primary cause of acute bronchitis. It may also occur in the aftermath of a cold or influenza. This form of bronchitis is more common in winter and is very common in children. Irritants like tobacco smoke, smog, chemicals in household cleaners, even fumes or dust in the environment can also start acute bronchitis, especially in susceptible individuals like allergy sufferers and workers in the chemical industry.
In acute bronchitis, coughing usually lasts between 10 to 20 days. It begins like a cold with a sore throat; later comes a cough that is initially dry and irritating; and then the cough turns moist with mucus. Mucous membranes are swollen, ciliated epithelium ceases to perform its function (e.g. the vibration that removes germs and dust) and creates a considerable amount of mucus that irritates the throat and provokes a bad cough. There might be a mild fever of about 101°F (38.5°C) lasting for a couple days. Fever is unusual and suggests pneumonia or flu, particularly when accompanied by shaking chills and nausea or vomiting.
For acute bronchitis there is no need for prescribing antibiotics since nine out of 10 cases are caused by viruses, not by bacteria. Generally antibiotics are necessary to relieve the symptoms.
Get plenty of rest and drink a lot of liquids. A lack of fluids makes the mucus thicker and therefore hard to cough out. Cough medications may be used as suppressants for just the dry cough and expectorants can be used to thin the bronchial secretions. Use a hot or cold humidifier to help with bringing the mucus up so that you can get it out of your body. Pain can be treated by acetaminophen and ibuprofen (although ibuprofen should not be used if you are asthmatic). People with bronchitis often have difficulty breathing while eating. They should therefore avoid foods that are hard and/or take long to chew, such as meat and raw vegetables. If a bacterial infection starts, antibiotics are prescribed according to the bacillus.
Try to avoid being in crowded spaces where infection can be easily transmitted. If you are sick, stay away from others as much as possible. Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use germ-killing gel to clean your hands when there is no water available. Make sure your diet is healthy and full of vitamins. Above all you should avoid the spread of germs, so anyone diagnosed with acute bronchitis should be isolated from others.