At MedExpress, we treat a range of respiratory illnesses, such as bronchitis, pneumonia, and RSV, which affect the lungs and cause coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing and other symptoms.

More about RSV, Bronchitis, and Pneumonia

Do you feel as if you just can’t shake your cough? Does your child’s coughing keep her up at night? A respiratory illness that affects the lungs or upper airways might be the culprit.

There are many different types of respiratory illnesses. The most common include colds and flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), bronchitis, and pneumonia.

Our friendly, caring medical providers can help diagnose what’s troubling you. They’ll recommend treatment to help you feel better and, depending on your illness, refer you to any specialized care that may be needed. 

What is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which carry air to your lungs. There are two types of bronchitis: acute and chronic. Acute bronchitis is common and usually is brought on by a cold or other virus. After you’ve been treated for acute bronchitis, you may have a lingering cough for several weeks.

Chronic bronchitis, however, is a constant inflammation of the bronchial tubes, usually caused by smoking. Bronchitis is considered chronic when it lasts at least three months, with recurring bouts of coughing that happen for at least two years in a row. 

Symptoms of Bronchitis

Symptoms of both acute and chronic bronchitis include:

  • Cough
  • Production of mucus when coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Slight fever and chills
  • Sore chest

Diagnosing Bronchitis

Your MedExpress medical team can diagnose bronchitis with a thorough medical history and physical exam. The physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner will use a stethoscope to carefully listen to your lungs and the upper airways. Tests are generally not necessary to diagnose acute bronchitis.

If chronic bronchitis is suspected, you’ll likely receive a chest X-ray. MedExpress centers offer X-rays on site, so you can receive your X-rays and diagnosis all in the same place.

Treatment of Bronchitis

Treating acute bronchitis is similar to treatments for colds and other viral illnesses:

  • Resting and drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Avoiding secondhand smoke and other fumes.
  • Managing pain and discomfort with ibuprofen or acetaminophen. 

Sometimes, a bronchodilator will be prescribed to help open up your airways. Additionally, cough suppressants or other medications are often prescribed for symptom relief. 

If your MedExpress provider diagnoses you with chronic bronchitis, he or she will help you to coordinate care for this ongoing condition. You will likely need to create a treatment plan with your primary care physician or a specialist, such as pulmonologist, to help you slow the progression of the disease. Often, those with chronic bronchitis will take part in pulmonary rehabilitation, as directed by their doctors. 

Senior man outdoors near trees coughing 

What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a respiratory infection that affects the lungs. It is a fairly common illness that may affect just one lobe, the whole lung, or both lungs.

Most of the time pneumonia is caused by a bacterial infection, but it can also be caused by a virus, fungus, or parasite. The infection causes inflammation in the lungs and causes the air sacs within the lungs – the alveoli – to fill with fluid or mucus. This fluid makes it difficult to breathe and limits the amount of oxygen the lungs can take in. 

Symptoms of Pneumonia

Symptoms of pneumonia can range from mild to severe. Mild symptoms are similar to cold and flu symptoms, but they last much longer. 

Symptoms include:

  • Chest pain.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Cough, which may be productive.
  • Fatigue.
  • Fever, shaking, and sweating chills.
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Diagnosing Pneumonia

To diagnose pneumonia, the physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner will ask about your medical history and conduct a physical exam, including carefully listening to your lungs with a stethoscope.

If pneumonia is suspected, you will likely have a chest X-ray, which can show the extent and location of the infection. You may also have blood or sputum (a thick fluid produced in the lungs) tests to identify the cause of the infection. 

Treating Pneumonia

Many people who have pneumonia can be treated at home with medication. For severe forms of pneumonia, hospitalization may be required.

Our MedExpress medical team will tailor your treatment to the specific type of pneumonia you have and its severity. If you have bacterial pneumonia you will be prescribed antibiotics.

You may also be prescribed a cough suppressant to calm your cough so you can sleep. Similar to other respiratory illnesses, you can take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to ease pain and discomfort.

While you are recovering from pneumonia, you can incorporate some lifestyle practices to help you get better sooner.

• Rest, rest, rest.
Pneumonia can be taxing on your body. Give yourself plenty of time to gain back your strength and energy. And once you start feeling well, try not to overdo it, since pneumonia can recur.

• Drink plenty of fluids.
Drinking fluids, especially water, can help loosen the mucus in your lungs so your coughs are more productive.

• Follow medication directions.
If you have bacterial pneumonia and are prescribed antibiotics, be sure you take all the medication exactly as prescribed. If you stop taking antibiotics too soon, bacteria can still be present and could cause your pneumonia to recur. 

What is Respiratory Syncytial Virus? 

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) affects the lungs and respiratory tract. It’s one of the most common causes of lower respiratory tract infections in children, accounting for more than 2 million yearly outpatient visits in kids younger than 5 years old.*

RSV infections commonly occur in the fall, winter, and spring. It easily spreads through direct contact. For example, if someone sneezes on his hand and then shakes hands with someone else. It also can spread through the air when droplets from sneezes and coughs are inhaled by someone nearby.

Hand washing, using hand sanitizer, and disinfecting surfaces help to prevent or slow down the spread of RSV.

* Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV): Trends and Surveillance. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Symptoms of RSV

  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Low-grade fever
  • Sore throat
  • Mild headache

Most cases of RSV are mild. But, it might mean that your illness is becoming more severe if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Severe cough
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing

Treating RSV

RSV is generally diagnosed by taking a medical history and performing a physical exam. 

You can treat symptoms by:

  • Resting and drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Keeping your child upright as much as possible.
  • Using a humidifier or cool mist vaporizer to keep air moist.
  • Using saline drips or a nasal rinse to ease sinus congestion.
  • Managing pain with ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
  • Staying away from cigarette smoke. 

Treatment also may include inhaled medications to help open airways.

Most people will recover from RSV within a couple of weeks, but hospitalization may be necessary depending on age and severity of symptoms. 

 Someone who is ill is most contagious within the first few days of being infected, but he or she can possibly spread the virus for several weeks after symptoms appear.