Bronchitis may be either acute or chronic. Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of your bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from your lungs. People who have bronchitis often cough up thickened mucus, which can be discolored. Often developing from a cold or other respiratory infection, acute bronchitis is very common. Chronic bronchitis, a more serious condition, is a constant irritation or inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, often due to smoking. Acute bronchitis usually improves within a few days without lasting effects, although you may continue to cough for weeks. However, if you have repeated bouts of bronchitis, you may have chronic bronchitis, which requires medical attention. Chronic bronchitis is one of the conditions included in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
For either acute bronchitis or chronic bronchitis,
Signs and symptoms may include:
Production of mucus (sputum), which can be clear, white, yellowish-gray or green in color rarely, it may be streaked with blood
Shortness of breath
Slight fever and chills
If you have acute bronchitis, you may have a nagging cough that lingers for several weeks after the inflammation resolves. Chronic bronchitis is defined as a productive cough that lasts at least three months, with recurring bouts occurring for at least two consecutive years. If you have chronic bronchitis, you’re likely to have periods when your signs and symptoms worsen. At those times, you may have acute bronchitis on top of your chronic bronchitis.
See your doctor if your cough:
Lasts more than three weeks
Prevents you from sleeping
Is accompanied by fever higher than 100.4 F (38 C)
Produces discolored mucus
Is associated with wheezing or shortness of breath
Acute bronchitis is usually caused by viruses, typically the same viruses that cause colds and flu (influenza). Antibiotics don’t kill viruses, so this type of medication isn’t useful in most cases of bronchitis. The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is smoking cigarettes. Air pollution and dust or toxic gases in the environment or workplace also can contribute to the condition.
Factors that increase your risk of bronchitis include:
Cigarette smoke. People who smoke or who live with a smoker are at higher risk of both acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis.
Remember even passive smoking can cause bronchitis.
Low resistance. This may result from another acute illness, such as a cold, or from a chronic condition that compromises your immune system. Older adults, infants and young children have greater vulnerability to infection.
Exposure to irritants on the job. Your risk of developing bronchitis is greater if you work around certain lung irritants, such as grains or textiles, or are exposed to chemical fumes.
Gastric reflux. Repeated bouts of severe heartburn can irritate your throat and make you more prone to developing bronchitis.
Antibiotics. Bronchitis usually results from a viral infection, so antibiotics aren’t effective. However, Dr.Paul might prescribe an antibiotic if he suspects that you have a bacterial infection.
Cough medicine. It’s best not to suppress a cough that brings up mucus, because coughing helps remove irritants from your lungs and air passages. If your cough keeps you from sleeping, you might try coughing suppressants at bedtime.
Other medications. If you have allergies, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), we recommend an inhaler and other medications to reduce inflammation and open narrowed passages in your lungs.
Nebulization also helps when your cough is due to narrowed air passages.