Acute Bronchitis - Exams and Tests
There are no routine tests to diagnose
acute bronchitis. Diagnosis is usually based on your
medical history, including your symptoms, and a
physical exam. Your doctor will make sure you do not have
pneumonia or risk factors for more serious diseases,
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), that may
If your doctor feels that your acute bronchitis
is caused by:
- A virus, then no more testing is needed in most cases.
- Bacteria, then more testing may be done and antibiotics may be
More testing may be needed for infants and people older
than 65, or if:
- Acute bronchitis does not clear up in 2 to 3 weeks.
heart failure, or
tuberculosis is suspected or has been recently
- Your immune system is not functioning well (impaired immune system). People with immune problems
are more likely to develop complications, such as pneumonia.
- You have a chronic respiratory disease, such as
asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- You do not get better with antibiotic therapy, or you require
- You have a heart rate greater than 100 beats per minute, a
respiratory rate greater than 24 breaths per minute, and a fever greater than
- Whooping cough, a bacterial infection of the
respiratory system , is suspected.
- Influenza (flu), a viral upper respiratory illness, is
Sometimes other tests may be needed. These tests
- Chest X-ray. The result of a chest X-ray of people who
have acute bronchitis is usually normal.
- Gram stain and culture and sensitivity of the mucus
from the lungs. These tests may help your doctor find out if bacteria are causing the
infection and which antibiotic will be effective.
- Other tests, including tests to measure blood oxygen
levels and tests that can help identify bacteria and viruses. The test results can help your doctor know
whether acute bronchitis is seriously harming lung function.