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What is a Bronchial Infection?

By D. Jeffress
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

A bronchial infection is an acute respiratory problem caused by a virus. Infections lead to inflammation and constriction of the airways, which makes it difficult to breathe deeply without wheezing and coughing. A bronchial infection usually clears up in one to two weeks, though a severe infection accompanied by a bad cough can lead to chronic problems. Most people can overcome acute infections by getting rest, avoiding unhealthy habits like smoking, and taking over-the-counter cough medication. In the case of a severe or chronic problem, a doctor might prescribe antiviral drugs to provide relief from symptoms.

Respiratory infections can be caused by several types of viruses, though the most common culprits are influenza and rhinovirus. An individual who has a chronic immune system disorder or has suffered lung damage from smoking or asthma is at in increased risk of contracting a bronchial infection. In addition, young children and elderly people are more likely to experience lasting problems due to weakened immune system functioning.

A virus usually enters the body through the mouth and nose and quickly travels to the airways. As the immune system tries to combat the foreign pathogens, it triggers an inflammatory response in the lungs and throat. Tissue becomes irritated, swollen, and filled with excess mucus. Common symptoms of a bronchial infection include wheezing, coughing up mucus, fatigue, and fever. A person may also experience chest pain or tightness due to a constant cough.

People who experience mild infections do not typically need to seek treatment from medical professionals. An individual can usually recover by resting, drinking plenty of fluids, and simply waiting for the virus to run its course. Over-the-counter cough syrups, throat sprays, and aspirin can help to relieve symptoms and make it easier to sleep with a bronchial infection. A primary care doctor should be contacted if a cough persists for several weeks or causes a high degree of discomfort.

A physician can check for an acute bronchial infection by monitoring a patient's breathing, taking a chest x-ray, and collecting blood and mucus samples for careful analysis. The doctor can rule out other potential causes of respiratory problems and make a proper diagnosis. Patients are usually given prescription antiviral and anti-inflammatory drugs, and instructed to come back in for regular checkups to make sure that conditions do not turn chronic. Most people experience full recoveries within a few weeks of treatment.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Wisedly33 — On Mar 11, 2014

Bronchial infections can be viral or bacterial in nature. Just depends. Sometimes, a low-grade sinus infection can progress to bronchitis. Even viral bronchial infections are often treated with precautionary antibiotics, simply because the mucus in the bronchial tubes is such a welcoming host for bacteria that will need antibiotics to treat. So it's better to get them out of the way to start with.

Bronchitis is no fun, no matter what causes it. It's uncomfortable at best and downright miserable at worst. You may wheeze for weeks, and have a nagging cough for months after a really robust bout with it.

Even when you're over the infection, do have the doctor listen to your chest every couple of months, just to make sure the bronchitis doesn't mount a comeback.

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