Atrium Health Navicent Urgent Care

Sinusitis, Bronchitis, Acute Asthma Attacks

A young woman blowing her nose

Breathing is a necessary function for life; breathing well is necessary for comfort and well-being. In the busy daily lives, we all lead, there is a tendency sometimes to try to pass off respiratory problems as "just a cold" or "just an allergy"". Ignoring symptoms that are meant to tell us that we may be suffering from sinusitis, bronchitis or an acute asthma attack can be dangerous and harmful to others as some of these conditions are contagious. Sinusitis, bronchitis, and acute asthma attacks are related problems but remain separate medically, which is one of the reasons to seek professional care for an early diagnosis and appropriate treatment.


Sinusitis is the medical term referring to swollen or inflamed tissue lining in the sinuses. The space in the sinuses typically contains only air, but when an inflammation is present, it can fill with fluid. This provides a great place for germs and infection to flourish.

The symptoms of sinusitis can include:

  • Pain or pressure around nose and eyes
  • Elevated temperature
  • Headache
  • Congestion in the nasal passages
  • Cough

A cold is often the start of sinusitis. Once inflammation and blockage of sinusitis set in, proper treatment depend on a medical professional identifying which of four types/levels of the condition is present. Appropriate treatment results in a variety of benefits, both in terms of immediate comfort and of future sinus health. Results of proper care will include:

  • Clearing of the sinuses and nasal passage
  • Relieving pressure and pain around the sinuses
  • Eliminating infection
  • Preventing scarring of the tissue and permanent tissue damage

Acute Bronchitis

As many people have discovered through experience, sinusitis can lead to bronchitis, as the two problems share the same germs. The bronchial disease involves inflammation of the mucous membrane in the bronchial passages or airways. Bronchitis takes two forms, acute and chronic. Of the two, chronic can be the more serious, typically lasting for several months in sequential years. Less concerning and shorter-lasting, acute bronchitis brings patients to urgent care during any season and can usually be successfully treated in a matter of a few weeks.

Symptoms of acute bronchitis may include:

  • Slight fever
  • Wheezing
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry cough
  • Tightness of chest

People with acute bronchitis should stay out of public contacts such as school or work for several days as their condition is considered to be contagious. Over-the-counter medication may help alleviate symptoms during that period, but a visit to urgent care may be necessary for diagnosis and more effective medications.

Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis is a more serious disease and requires professional treatment. More common among smokers, its symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased fatigue
  • Coughing that worsens and produces green/yellow mucous
  • Tightness or pain in the chest
  • Swollen lower extremities

With this chronic form of the disease, the lungs and airways are always inflamed and can more readily become infected. Immediate and on-going treatment is necessary to maintain control of the condition that can have serious long-term implications.


Another chronic respiratory condition often-requiring urgent care is asthma. Frequent shortness of breath or just hearing a chest wheeze or whistle in conjunction with breathing can be an indication of this serious illness. Asthma creates inflammation of the bronchial tubes, the route through which air flows in and out of your lungs, thus restricting the volume of air in or out with each breath.

Asthma can be triggered by a variety of things. Allergic reactions to airborne particles are a common source of asthma attacks. Pollutants such as chemicals in the air often induce asthma at work sites. Many asthmatics' conditions are aggravated by exercise. Regardless of what sets off an attack, the symptoms remain the same, including:

  • Audible wheezing
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Shortness of breath

Restriction of one's ability to breathe is a source of great stress, both to the patient himself and to family and friends who watch the struggle to breathe. The varieties of effective medications and breathing devices now available have brought a measure of relief to the asthmatic community, but asthma remains a serious respiratory disease.

Attacks can come on suddenly and quickly become life threatening. Anyone with asthma should always be prepared for an emergency. Friends and family should know the measures to be taken in the event you cannot help yourself. Locations of urgent care facilities should be noted so that no delays occur in seeking immediate treatment.

Listening to Your Breath

Our breath allows us to live; breathing well allows us to live well. Learning to listen to our bodies through the symptoms they present to us is an important piece of the picture of good health. All of the breathing problems we have discussed here affect our lives to some degree, and appropriate and timely responses to our symptoms can be found in the urgent care facility. Is it a cold? Alternatively, is it something more, such as sinusitis, bronchitis, or an acute asthma attack? A timely visit to urgent care can speed a cure and prevent something more serious from affecting your ability to breathe.