All About Bronchitis

The bronchial tubes are responsible for carrying air to and from your lungs. When the lining of these tubes becomes inflamed, the result is Bronchitis. Coughing up thickened and possibly discolored mucus is one of the prime symptoms of bronchitis. The condition comes in both chronic and acute forms. Acute bronchitis is a common ailment and frequently occurs as a complication of a respiratory infection like the common cold. The more serious chronic form of bronchitis is most often found in individuals who have to deal with continual irritation and inflammation of the bronchial tubes. Smokers are particularly prone to this form of bronchitis.

It will typically take you just a few days to recover from acute bronchitis, although coughing may continue for weeks afterward. If you experience extended or frequent bouts of bronchitis, the condition may be chronic. This situation requires medical help. Chronic bronchitis falls under the wider umbrella of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

As noted above, acute bronchitis is most typically associated with some other problem with the lungs. It’s typically the fault of a viral infection by the same agents responsible for colds and the flu. As viruses aren’t affected by antibiotics, these sorts of drugs aren’t usually effective on bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is most often connected to the long-term effects of smoking. However, living in environments or working in places which expose your lungs to significant irritants (air pollution, dust, toxic gases, etc.) can also be a factor in chronic bronchitis.

The airways which become inflamed in bronchitis are the bronchi. These are the larger passages inside the lungs. Typical bronchitis symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pains, and coughing up mucus. The acute, short-term form of bronchitis is sometimes referred to as a chest cold.

In most cases of acute bronchitis, coughing lasts roughly three weeks. Viral infections account for over 90 percent of acute bronchitis cases. The viruses which cause bronchitis can spread from person to person via airborne or skin-to-skin contact. Certain environmental conditions can increase the likelihood of contracting bronchitis, including air pollution, tobacco smoke, or dust. Bronchitis is very rarely caused by bacterial rather than viral infection. Responsible bacteria include Bordetella pertussis and Mycoplasma pneumonia. Common acute bronchitis is typically treated with bed rest, paracetamol/acetaminophen, and NSAIDs to handle any associated fever.

Acute bronchitis is a non-recurring bronchial inflammation that’s also commonly called a chest cold. Coughing is the most common symptom, but additional symptoms can include wheezing, coughing up mucus, fever, shortness of breath, and minor chest pain. The infection responsible for bronchitis typically runs its course in a few days, with 10 days being a maximum. Coughing can persist for weeks after the infection, with the total length of symptoms being three weeks. Severe cases may last longer: up to six weeks.

Viral infections are responsible for the overwhelming majority of bronchitis cases. The responsible viruses are spread into the air when an infected individual coughs; they can also be transmitted by direct contact. Risk factors that can make it easier for viruses to take hold include air pollutants, tobacco smoke, and dust. In a very small number of cases, the culprit is a bacterial infection like Mycoplasma pneumonia or Bordetella pertussis. Bronchitis is typically diagnosed based on the symptoms a sufferer presents. The color of mucus and sputum coughed up by a bronchitis sufferer is not indicative, i.e. it cannot be used to determine if the cause is viral or bacterial. Precise identification of the culprit is not required to treat bronchitis. Note that many other lung conditions (asthma, pneumonia, COPD, bronchiectasis, and bronchiolitis) have similar symptoms. Doctors typically use chest x-rays to verify their diagnoses and check for the presence of pneumonia.

Bronchitis can be prevented by refraining from smoking and avoiding airborne lung irritants. Stringent hygiene (including hand washing) can help. Acute bronchitis is treated with bed rest, acetaminophen/paracetamol, and NSAIDs for reducing fever. Over-the-counter cough medicine does little to help bronchitis, and its use is not recommended when children under six suffer from the condition. Limited research suggests that salbutamol may be effective in treating sufferers experiencing wheezing, but the drug may also cause tremors and nervousness. Antibiotics are unhelpful in bronchitis cases unless pertussis has been identified as the root cause. There is some evidence to suggest that honey and pelargonium help reduce bronchitis symptoms.

Acute bronchitis is an extremely common condition. In a typical year, it will affect roughly five percent of all adults and six percent of all children. Bronchitis cases are more common in winter. Every year, doctors in the United States treat more than 10 million people with bronchitis. Roughly 70 percent of these patients receive unnecessary antibiotics. There is increasing debate about the effectiveness of antibiotics in treating acute bronchitis.

Chronic bronchitis is separated from the acute form of the condition by lasting longer. Having a productive cough for more than three months a year for two years in a row is a sign of chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is closely tied to chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, or COPDs. Smoking is the most common cause, but other factors like genetics and environmental conditions play a role too. Treatments for chronic bronchitis include smoking cessation, rehabilitation, vaccination, steroids, and inhaled bronchodilators. In certain cases, long-term oxygen therapy or lung transplantation can resolve chronic bronchitis.

When the source of chronic bronchitis is bacterial, the condition is referred to as protracted bacterial bronchitis. The signs of bacterial bronchitis are a chronic productive cough and a positive bronchoalveolar lavage, and the condition can be resolved through antibiotic treatment. Chronic bronchitis symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, and difficulty handling physical exertion and low oxygen environments. Chronic bronchitis may include severe coughing first thing in the morning, and the sputum produced may be green or yellow with or without specks and streaks of blood.

In the majority of cases, chronic bronchitis is linked to cigarette smoking or other types of tobacco use. Air pollution and other lung irritants can cause the condition. Increased frequency of chronic bronchitis is linked to occupations that expose workers to harmful inhalants on a regular basis, such as mining, textile manufacturing, livestock and grain handling, and metal molding. When chronic bronchitis is caused by a bacterial infection, the culprit is typically Streptococcuss pneumonia, Moraxella catarrhal, or non-typable Haemophilus influenza.

People suffering from bronchitis or other COPDs will present decreased FEV1 and FEV1/FVC ratios in a pulmonary function test. Bronchitis does not usually cause high residual volume (large amounts of air left in the lungs after exhaling). This sets it apart from other obstructive lung conditions like emphysema and asthma.

Evidence shows that the impact chronic bronchitis has on lung function can be slowed by giving up smoking. Treatment for chronic bronchitis is largely symptomatic, and there are effective pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic regimens. Nonpharmacologic treatment options include pulmonary rehabilitation, surgery for lung volume reduction, and lung transplants. Inhaled corticosteroids can be used to minimize inflammation and edema. Bronchodilators (e.g. salmeterol or other inhaled β2-adrenergic receptor agonists) help to reduce bronchospasm and thereby treat wheezing and shortness of breath. Anticholinergics like tiotropium bromide or ipratropium bromide can serve the same purpose.

Mucolytics have a minor positive impact on acute attacks in chronic bronchitis patients. Chronic bronchitis patients receiving supplemental oxygen to treat hypoxemia have reduced mortality. Long-term oxygen supplementation may cause hypercapnia and respiratory acidosis.


Acute and chronic bronchitis have roughly similar symptoms, including:

* Cough

* Production of mucus/sputum. Clear, white, green, and yellow-gray colors are all common. In rare cases, there may be blood in the mucus.

* Shortness of breath

* Fatigue

* Chills

* Slight fever

* Minor chest pains

If you have a nagging cough that lingers for weeks, acute bronchitis may be the cause. Bronchitis becomes chronic if you experience a productive cough for three months or more with frequent recurrences over at least two years. It is possible to experience an episode of acute bronchitis while also suffering from chronic bronchitis.

The bronchi are the larger airways leading from your windpipe to your lungs. Healthy bronchi produce mucus in order to filter dust and other irritants out of the air traveling into the smaller passages (bronchioles) in your lungs. Bronchitis starts when an infection causes irritation and inflammation leading to increased mucus production in the bronchi. Coughing is an involuntary response as your body attempts to purge the excess mucus

Bronchitis can be caused by viruses or bacteria, with the former being far more common. Bronchitis can come from the same infections responsible for the cold or flu. These agents are typically spread through the air when an infected individual coughs or sneezes. After being expelled from the body, viruses can land on exposed surfaces and survive for up to 24 hours. The virus can be picked up from there and spread to other surfaces by skin contact.

Bronchitis can lead to complications. Examples include pneumonia and acute respiratory failure. Severe complications are more likely for individuals who are suffering from other lung problems in addition to bronchitis.

Doctors typically diagnose bronchitis by assessing all of a patient’s symptoms. Pneumonia must be ruled out. In difficult cases, doctors may analyze sputum samples and take chest x-rays to confirm that bronchitis is the proper diagnosis.

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