What is bronchitis?

Bronchitis is inflammation of the airways leading to the lungs (bronchi), resulting in congestion, mucus production, and shortness of breath. There are two types of bronchitis: acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term). Chronic bronchitis is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Bronchitis is a common respiratory disorder in the United States. Infants, young children, and the elderly have an increased risk of developing acute bronchitis, while smokers and people over 45 years of age are most likely to develop chronic bronchitis. Women are twice as likely as men to develop chronic bronchitis (Source: CDC).

Smoking is the most common cause of chronic bronchitis and can also lead to acute bronchitis. The primary cause of acute bronchitis is upper respiratory viral infection. Preexisting lung disorders, such as asthma, can increase the risk of bronchitis, and exposure to air pollution, secondhand smoke, and allergies can increase its severity.

The characteristic symptom of bronchitis is a congested cough; for bronchitis to be considered chronic, it must last longer than three months. Treatment for chronic bronchitis includes bronchodilators, anti-inflammatory drugs, and chest physical therapy for loosening mucus in the lungs. Treatment for acute bronchitis includes avoiding cigarette smoke, drinking plenty of fluids, adequate rest, taking aspirin or acetaminophen, and using a humidifier. Healthy lifestyle practices, including good hand washing to prevent infection, getting plenty of rest, and refraining from smoking, can reduce your risk of bronchitis. Current recommendations discourage the use of antibiotics for uncomplicated acute bronchitis in otherwise healthy individuals.

Left untreated, bronchitis can be associated with serious or even life-threatening symptoms. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you have severe difficulty breathing, which may be accompanied by pale or blue lips, rapid heart rate, sweating, and anxiety.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for bronchitis but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.


What are the symptoms of bronchitis?

Bronchitis causes inflammation of the bronchi, resulting in wheezing, a cough with mucus, and other symptoms. Depending on whether you have acute or chronic bronchitis, the symptoms can be short-lived or persist over time.

Common symptoms of bronchitis

You may experience bronchitis symptoms daily or just once in a while. At times any of these bronchitis symptoms can be ... Read more about bronchitissymptoms


What causes bronchitis?

Bronchitis is inflammation in the airways leading to the lungs (bronchi), resulting in congestion, excess mucus, and shortness of breath. There are two types of bronchitis: acute (short term) and chronic (long term). Chronic bronchitis, like emphysema, is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Smoking is the most common cause of chronic bronchitis and can also lea... Read more about bronchitiscauses


How is bronchitis treated?

Treatment for bronchitis begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. The goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation and congestion and improve breathing. Bronchitis is not typically treated with antibiotics, because it is rarely caused by a bacterial infection. The most common causes are smoking, in the case of chronic bronchitis, and viral infection, in the case of acute ... Read more about bronchitistreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Lungs, Breathing and Respiration

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