Bronchitis is an infection in the tubes that bring air to the lungs. When these tubes become infected, mucus forms inside them, which can make it hard to breathe. Acute bronchitis is short-lived version of bronchitis that may follow a cold. Get the facts on the most likely cause, the symptoms to watch for, and ways to treat it. 1. Viruses are the main cause. Acute bronchitis is most often caused by viruses. In many cases, the same viruses that cause colds and the flu cause bronchitis. Rarely, bronchitis may also be caused by bacteria or a fungus. In some cases, being exposed to smoke, fumes or dust may also cause bronchitis. 2. The symptoms can seem like a cold. Many of the symptoms of bronchitis are the same as those of the common cold. In fact, some people refer to bronchitis as a chest cold. It is also common to get bronchitis after having a cold. The main symptom of bronchitis is a cough that often brings up clear, yellow or green mucus. Other symptoms can include body aches, chest congestion, chills, low-grade fever, sore throat, shortness of breath, and wheezing. If you’re not sure whether you have bronchitis, see your doctor. 3. The cough may linger. In most cases, you can expect the symptoms of bronchitis to last for up to two weeks. However, the cough can last for as long as eight weeks. While this can be normal, see your doctor if your cough lasts longer than two weeks or your cough produces blood. 4. Antibiotics won’t help. Since antibiotics do not treat illnesses caused by a virus, they will not help you feel better. The only time your doctor may prescribe antibiotics for bronchitis is if he or she thinks it is caused by bacteria. 5. You can treat bronchitis at home. In most cases, you can treat the symptoms of bronchitis on your own. Get plenty of rest and drink extra fluids. Try using steam or a humidifier to loosen mucus. Use an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), or naproxen (Aleve) to help ease pain. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help reduce pain and lower your fever. If you have a dry cough, you can take an over-the-counter cough suppressant. However, if your cough is producing mucus, skip these medicines. Coughing up mucus helps clear it from your airways faster. 6. Smoking can put you at risk. Smoking can damage your bronchial tubes and make it easier for you to get bronchitis. And if you do get bronchitis, smoking can make you sicker for longer. What’s more, smoking is the biggest risk factor for chronic bronchitis, which is a long-term, serious condition. 7. Age is a risk factor. People of all ages get bronchitis—it’s a very common condition. However, older adults, infants, and young children have a higher risk of bronchitis than other population groups. 8. Washing your hands can help prevent bronchitis. You can’t prevent all cases of bronchitis, but washing your hands often can help lower your risk. Here’s how to practice good hand-washing technique: Wet your hands with running water then turn off the faucet. Apply soap and lather your hands. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Be sure to scrub between your fingers and under your nails. Rinse your hands well and dry them using an air dryer or clean towel.