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Maybe you’re fighting a cough, experiencing shortness of breath and feeling fatigued? It’s possible you may have bronchitis, an inflammation of the bronchial tubes that carry air to and from your lungs.

It’s often caused by a viral or bacterial infection and can lead to symptoms like coughing (often with mucus) and chest discomfort. Acute bronchitis, sometimes referred to as a chest cold, is usually short-lived and can accompany a cold or respiratory infection.

Acute bronchitis typically lasts less than a few weeks, with a persistent cough as a lingering symptom. The illness is the result of swelling and mucus in the airways into the lungs, prompting a cough reflex.

Chronic bronchitis is a lung disease often associated with smoking and may be part of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

While bronchitis itself isn’t contagious, the illnesses that cause it, such as the flu and COVID-19, can be contagious.

It’s tricky to know if you have bronchitis, pneumonia or the flu. A common cold will have more symptoms in the upper respiratory tract, including postnasal drip, runny nose and a dry cough.

Norton Now includes same-day care options so you can get the care you need, when you need it and where you need it. Norton Community Medical Associates primary care offices are located across the Louisville and Southern Indiana area. Save your spot in line at a Norton Immediate Care Center or visit a Norton Prompt Care clinic for treatment of minor injuries or illnesses.

Use Norton eCare video visits or just answer a few questions online from anywhere in Kentucky or Indiana for care without coming into the office. Your provider can order drive-thru lab testing for you if needed at Norton Healthcare Express Services.

Acute Bronchitis Symptoms

  • Dry cough followed by a productive cough as the illness develops
  • Chest soreness
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Slight fever
  • Runny nose
  • Mild headache
  • Mild body aches
  • Sore throat
  • Wheezing

What Can I Do to Prevent Bronchitis?

To reduce your risk of developing bronchitis, take these precautions:

  • Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water to reduce the risk of viral infections. Avoid close contact with people who have respiratory infections, especially during cold and flu season.
  • Get vaccinated. Getting your annual flu vaccination can help prevent some cases of bronchitis caused by the flu.
  • Quit smoking. If you smoke, do yourself a big favor and stop. This is one of the most effective ways to prevent bronchitis and other respiratory diseases. Norton Healthcare offers programs to help with smoking cessation. It’s easier to quit when you have resources and people on your side to help you along.
  • Drink plenty of water. Drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated and help your respiratory system function properly.
  • Manage allergies. If you have allergies, taking allergy medications and reducing your exposure to allergens can help prevent bronchitis.
  • Air pollution, especially from smoke, dust, chemical fumes and other lung irritants can cause acute bronchitis. Do what you can to avoid these triggers.
  • Practice coughing and sneezing etiquette. Cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing to prevent the spread of viruses.

When Should I See a Doctor if I Have Bronchitis?

 If your cough is persistent, seeing an urgent care doctor can help with:

  • Accurate diagnosis: A health care professional can confirm whether your symptoms are due to bronchitis or another lung condition. Bacterial or viral bronchitis have very similar symptoms.
  • Bronchitis treatment: Bronchitis is typically caused by a viral infection, meaning antibiotics won’t help. Even if your bronchitis is caused by a bacterial infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that antibiotics won’t help and advises against prescribing them. Your doctor may recommend cough medicine to relieve symptoms. Cough medicine comes in two varieties: Expectorants and cough suppressants. An expectorant will loosen thick, sticky mucus in the bronchial tubes or encourage production of mucus. Cough suppressants like dextromethorphan reduce the urge to cough and should only be used for a severe dry cough. If a productive cough is suppressed, the phlegm won’t clear out of the lungs.
  • Prevention: In some cases, bronchitis can lead to complications such as pneumonia. That’s why a timely medical evaluation can prevent and manage these complications.
  • Chronic bronchitis: This is a long-term lung disease often associated with smoking and can lead to COPD. Regular monitoring and management from your medical provider is essential. 

Consider emergency care if you have a high fever, have difficulty breathing or are in a high-risk group (older adults and those who have underlying health conditions).

Norton Now: Care When You Need It

  • Get medical care when and where it works for you.
    • Norton Community Medical Associates primary care is your medical home. More than 35 locations across the Louisville area and Southern Indiana means there’s an office close to home, work or school. Your primary care physician knows you and your health and performs annual checkups to stay ahead of any emerging conditions. Our doctors and nurse practitioners connect you to the full Norton Healthcare system, giving you and your family easy access to the area’s leading specialty physicians.
    • More than 15 Norton Immediate Care Centers offer treatment for minor illnesses and injuries. Reserve your spot in line and we’ll text you when it’s time to check in. All Norton Immediate Care Centers are equipped with X-ray machines.
    • Norton Prompt Care clinics have same-day appointments available when you need care for yourself or your family. All locations offer extended weekday and weekend hours. Many are located within Walgreens stores.
    • Norton eCare allows you to visit with a provider via secure video or by simply answering questions online about your symptoms.
    • Emergency care is available for a very serious illness or injury that puts your life in danger. Get treatment 24/7 at nine locations in Louisville and Southern Indiana, including three locations for kids.
  • Medicaid, Medicare and most major commercial insurance plans are accepted.
  • Get test results, renew prescriptions, communicate with your health care provider, get notified if an earlier appointment becomes available and more with your free Norton MyChart account.

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