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Bronchitis definition

Bronchitis occurs when the bronchial tubes (tubes that bring air to your lungs) gets inflamed and swollen. Bronchitis may result in having cough and thickened mucus, which can be colorless.

Type of bronchitis

There are two types of bronchitis:

  • Acute bronchitis
  • Chronic bronchitis

Acute bronchitis: Acute bronchitis is very common; it often develops from cold or other respiratory infections. Acute bronchitis doesn’t last more than a few weeks.

Chronic bronchitis: Chronic bronchitis is a serious condition; it keeps coming back and doesn’t go away. Chronic bronchitis causes constant irritation or inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes.

Chronic bronchitis needs immediate medical attention. Chronic bronchitis is one of the medical conditions included in COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). If you have repeated bronchitis then you need medical care.

Symptoms of bronchitis:

For both chronic bronchitis and acute bronchitis symptoms related to breathing these symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • A clear, white, yellowish-gray or green colored production of mucus (sputum)
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Slight fever and chills
  • Chest discomfort

The symptoms of acute bronchitis are most likely to a common cold such as cold, mild headache, or body aches. However, these symptoms usually improve in about a week, you may have a nagging cough for several weeks.

While chronic bronchitis is defined as a productive cough that lasts at least three months, with recurring periods occurring for at least two consecutive years. Symptoms get worsen when you have chronic bronchitis.

A low-grade fever, cough, and sore throat are also might be the symptom of COVID-19, caused by the new coronavirus. Take medical advice or call your doctor if you think you have COVID-19.

Cause of bronchitis

The cause of acute bronchitis are viruses, mostly the same virus that causes flu (influenza) and cold.

The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is smoking cigarettes. Chronic bronchitis is also caused by smoking polluted air such as chemical fumes and dust particles.

Risk factors:

Smoking: People who smoke daily and those who stay with them are more likely to develop bronchitis.

Low resistance: Bronchitis can be a result of another acute disease, such as cold, or maybe from a chronic condition that compromises the immune system. People who have a high risk of infections such as infants and old age are more likely to develop bronchitis.

Previous history: People who have asthma and other allergies related to respiratory disorders are more likely to develop the disease.

Gender: Female smoker has more risk of developing bronchitis than the male smoker.

Family history: If your family has a history of lung disease then you are also at risk of developing bronchitis.

When to see your doctor:

Call your doctor if your cough:

  • Lasts more than three weeks
  • Keeps you awake at night
  • Carry blood in mucus
  • Causes chest pain
  • Has a barking sound
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • If you have a fever above 100.4 F
  • Shortness of breathing or wheezing


Although a single scene of bronchitis for the most part doesn’t cause concern, it can lead to pneumonia in certain individuals. Rehashed episodes of bronchitis, in any case, may imply that you have a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Bronchitis diagnosis:

For diagnosis of bronchitis, your doctor or health care provider asks for your symptoms and then take a physical examination of yours as per your symptoms, they may ask about your cough, how long you have a cough, and what kind of mucus it brings.

Your doctor may also listen to your lungs sound if there is any wheezing.

Your doctor or health care provider may also advise you some tests depending on if it is acute bronchitis or chronic bronchitis.

These tests may include:

PFT (Pulmonary Function Test): For this test, you will be asked to blow into a device called a spirometer, it measures how much air your lungs can hold and how fast you can bring air out of your lungs. This test is done for checking emphysema (a type of COPD in which air sacs of your lungs are damaged) and asthma.

Chest X-ray: An x-ray of the chest, in this case, is done to check for pneumonia or another illness that might cause your cough. It is necessary if you are currently a smoker or you were ever a smoker.

Blood tests: Your doctor or health care provider will perform some blood tests to check the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in your body.

Sputum tests: Your doctor or health care provider may also advise you for the sputum or mucus test to rule out disease caused by bacteria and could be helped by antibiotics. Sputum tests also performed for other signs of allergies.

Bronchitis treatment

Acute bronchitis goes away on its own within a couple of weeks most of the time. Antibiotics work only when your bronchitis is caused by bacteria which is rare. If you have asthma or other allergies already and you are wheezing, then your health care provider or doctor may advise an inhaler. An inhaler helps to open the airways and makes breathing easy.

To relieve symptoms of acute bronchitis, you can:

  • Drink plenty of water, drinking eight to twelve glass of water per day makes your mucus thin and it became easier to get it out.
  • Take more rest.
  • Use steam or a humidifier.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers.
  • Take over-the-counter cough medicines.

The treatment for chronic bronchitis includes:

Medications such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and bronchodilators that helps to open airways.

  • A device that is used to clearing up the mucus helps to cough up fluid more easily.
  • Oxygen therapy, it helps you in better breathing.
  • Pulmonary rehab, it is a type of exercise program that may help you to breathe more easily.

Bronchitis prevention:

Follow these tips to reduce your risk of getting bronchitis:

Avoid cigarette smoking: smoking cigarettes can increase the risk of chronic bronchitis.

Get vaccination: Make sure you get flu vaccination; this will prevent you from getting the flu that causes acute bronchitis.

Wash your hands: Wash your hands frequently and get in a habit of using alcohol-based sanitizer to reduce the risk of viral infections. Wear an anti-pollutant mask: Wear a mask if you might expose to dust and pollution on a daily basis and if you have COPD.

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