When to Go to the ER for Bronchitis

When to Go to the ER

Sep 6, 2023


Experiencing shortness of breath or difficulty breathing can be nerve-wracking, especially if you suffer from bronchitis. So, knowing when to go to the ER for bronchitis symptoms can be life-saving in certain situations.

Bronchitis is a disease in which the airways that carry air to your lungs become inflamed and filled with mucus, making it difficult to breathe properly. Acute bronchitis is one of the most common respiratory illnesses and it typically lasts only 1-3 weeks. However, chronic bronchitis can last for over three months and deliver more debilitating symptoms. 

The medical staff here at Complete Care are here to share when to go to the ER for bronchitis. Although most cases of bronchitis can go away with home remedies or medication, there are instances where the symptoms are more serious and deserve medical attention. 

What causes bronchitis? 

When mucus clogs the lining of your bronchial tubes, it makes it more difficult for air to get to your lungs properly. As a result, you may experience coughing, wheezing, and symptoms of shortness of breath such as difficulty breathing. 

As mentioned earlier, there are two types of bronchitis: acute and chronic. Both have a unique set of causes yet share a list of symptoms, with chronic bronchitis being a bit more severe and deserving of medical attention. 

Acute bronchitis causes

Causes of acute bronchitis also referred to as a chest cold, include:

  • Viral infections: Viruses such as the cold, flu, RSV, and other respiratory infections are the most common causes of acute bronchitis. Flu symptoms and other viral infections can be easily treated with antibiotics or may go away on their own.
  • Allergens: Can allergies cause bronchitis? Acute bronchitis can be triggered by breathing in allergens such as pollen, dust, or smoke. Breathing in cigarette smoke or smoke from a bonfire can also trigger bronchitis. 
  • Bacterial infections: If bacteria get caught in your bronchial tubes, you may begin to cough up thick green or yellow phlegm. Medication such as antibiotics may need to be prescribed to treat your bronchitis brought on by a bacterial infection.  

Acute bronchitis should only last for a few weeks at most and can be easily treated with at-home remedies, antibiotics, or other medication, or may go away on its own. Be sure to rest, drink plenty of fluids, and monitor your symptoms to ensure the condition hasn’t progressed. 

Chronic bronchitis causes

Common causes of chronic bronchitis include:

  • Recurring acute bronchitis: If you happen to get sick a lot, it is possible that your acute bronchitis could turn into chronic bronchitis. 
  • Smoking cigarettes: Consistent smoking is the most common cause of chronic bronchitis as the smoke damages your lung’s airways, making breathing difficult. It’s not as easy to breathe normally when your lungs are damaged!
  • Asthma: Those who suffer from asthma are highly likely to have chronic bronchitis. 
  • Air pollution: If you live or work in an area with poor air quality, the environment could be a cause of your breathing problems.

It’s important to note that chronic bronchitis is not curable, but your symptoms can be managed with the help of a medical professional. 

How do you know when to go to the ER for bronchitis?

Should I go to the ER for bronchitis? Although many cases of acute bronchitis can be resolved on their own, there are some instances where you should seek medical attention for your bronchitis symptoms. Emergency bronchitis symptoms include the following:

Not being able to breathe properly is a sign of a medical emergency and should not be ignored. Bronchitis that is left untreated can allow the infection to spread and turn into a more serious condition like pneumonia. If your bronchitis symptoms last more than three weeks or the symptoms don’t seem to subside with at-home remedies and medication, see a medical professional for an examination. 

Bronchitis emergency treatment 

So, what can the emergency room do for bronchitis patients? Bronchitis emergency treatment will depend on the patient’s particular symptoms, medical history, and health habits. 

For example, if your bronchitis is caused by a bacterial infection (acute bronchitis) the doctor can prescribe antibiotics to clear out your lung’s airways and restore easier breathing. However, in a more severe case, respiratory rehabilitation or oxygen therapy may be necessary to help you breathe normally again as there may be lung damage. You may even be prescribed an inhaler, steroids, or other medications to open up the airways.

As we said before, chronic bronchitis does not have a cure, which is why catching symptoms the first time and practicing healthy habits is the best way to keep yourself and your lungs safe. 

How long does it take to recover from bronchitis?

Bronchitis recovery largely depends on the person and how healthy their lungs are. The average person with acute bronchitis may only take two weeks to fully recover, whereas someone who smokes may take eight weeks or more for the symptoms to calm down. 

In order to make a swift recovery…

  • Drink plenty of fluids to loosen up the fluid in your lungs
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Use a humidifier to help open your airways
  • Try cough drops to suppress the consistent cough
  • Take over-the-counter or your prescribed medications
  • Avoid smoking or drinking alcohol 

Complete Care can provide you with the bronchitis emergency treatment you need

Now that you know when to go to the ER for bronchitis, we hope that you won’t ignore the symptoms and seek out professional care. Persistent cough, wheezing, fever, and blue or gray skin are signs that you are not breathing properly and need to head to the emergency room. The emergency medical staff at Complete Care is here to ensure that your bronchitis symptoms don’t evolve into something worse. And because we’re open 24 hours a day and seven days a week, we can treat you anytime as soon as you need us. 

Our ER locations are all across the state of Texas (Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas/Fort Worth, East Texas, Lubbock, and San Antonio) and in Colorado Springs. When you need us, we are here to take complete care of you. 

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