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Diagnosing and Treating Acute Bronchitis

It is important to get your questions about acute bronchitis answered by a healthcare professional.

What to Expect

  • A physical examination, and possibly an X-ray if you've had fever
  • Resting and getting plenty of fluids
  • Symptoms that last a few weeks

How Is Acute Bronchitis Diagnosed?

Healthcare providers diagnose acute bronchitis by asking patients questions about symptoms and doing a physical examination. They rarely order additional tests to diagnose acute bronchitis. If you have or recently had a fever, your provider might order a chest X-ray to rule out pneumonia.

How Is Acute Bronchitis Treated?

Most cases of acute bronchitis go away on their own. The infection simply has to run its course over several weeks. Your doctor may recommend rest, fluids, a cough suppressant and/or a pain reliever. A humidifier or steam may also help. You may need inhaled medicine to open your airways if you are wheezing. Antibiotics haven’t been proven to shorten the course of acute bronchitis or lessen symptoms. Because viruses cause most cases, antibiotics are not generally used, as they are only effective against bacteria. Additionally, using antibiotics when they aren’t recommended can not only cause side effects, but also might mean that your body won’t respond to antibiotics when it needs to. If your doctor thinks that bacteria caused your acute bronchitis, he or she might then prescribe antibiotics.

    This content was developed in partnership with the CHEST Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American College of Chest Physicians.

    Page Last Updated: July 11, 2019

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