Updated: November 24, 2017
Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of your bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from your lungs. Bronchitis may be either acute or chronic.
Acute bronchitis is very common which develops from a cold or other respiratory infection where as chronic bronchitis is a constant irritation or inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, often due to smoking and is a more serious condition. Chronic bronchitis is one of the conditions of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Acute bronchitis is also known as chest cold. It usually improves within a week to 10 days without lasting effects, although the cough may linger for weeks.
Acute bronchitis is usually caused by viruses and usually its the same viruses that cause colds and flu (influenza). Antibiotics are not useful in most cases of bronchitis as they do not kill viruses. Sometimes bacteria can also cause bronchitis. In both cases, as your body fights off the germs, your bronchial tubes swell and make more mucus. This will result in smaller openings for air to flow, which can make you harder to breathe.
The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is cigarette smoking. 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:
People who smoke or who live with a smoker are at higher risk of both acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis.
Older adults and people with ongoing diseases, as well as babies and young children will have low resistance to fight off the germs because of weaker immune system.
Even a cold can make it more likely since your body is already busy fighting off those germs.
Your risk of developing bronchitis is greater if you work around certain lung irritants which bother your lungs, such as grains or textiles, or are exposed to chemical fumes or dust.
Repeated times of severe heartburn can irritate your throat and make you more prone to developing bronchitis.
You live in or often travel to a place with poor air quality or lots of pollution.
For either acute bronchitis or chronic bronchitis, signs and symptoms may include:
When your bronchial tubes heal and the swelling goes down, symptoms will go off other then the cough which can last for a few weeks. If it goes on much longer than that, there may be some other problem.
Call your doctor if your cough: