Bronchitis refers to inflammation of the inner lining of bronchi, or airways, in your lungs. Each lung has a bronchial tube that connects to your windpipe. Inside your lung, the bronchial tube branches out into smaller tubes called bronchioles. All these airways can become inflamed.
Acute and chronic bronchitis develop from different causes:
The same viruses that result in colds and the flu can cause acute bronchitis. You can also develop acute bronchitis from exposure to tobacco smoke, air pollution, dust, and fumes.
Chronic bronchitis is a serious, long-term condition that occurs when the bronchial tube lining is constantly inflamed. The top cause is smoking, but breathing air pollution, fumes, or dust for a long time may also lead to chronic bronchitis.
Inflamed airways produce excess mucus, causing the following symptoms in both types of bronchitis:
- Mucus production
- Shortness of breath
- Chest discomfort
There are some differences in the symptoms of acute and chronic bronchitis:
The primary symptom is a persistent cough that lasts 10-20 days, long after the infection goes away. Your cough may produce clear mucus, but if it’s yellow or green, you may also have a bacterial infection.
Chronic bronchitis is a productive cough — one that produces mucus — that lasts at least three months with flare-ups continuing for at least two years. Chronic bronchitis is a progressive disease that’s incurable, so careful management is essential.
Treatment for acute bronchitis may include rest, plenty of fluids, medications to treat a fever or reduce the cough, and a humidifier to loosen mucus and improve airflow. Antibiotics won’t help bronchitis caused by a virus, but your doctor may consider prescribing them if you have a bacterial infection.
Chronic bronchitis requires a long-term treatment plan to keep your airways open and to clear the mucus. This plan may include bronchodilators or steroids. If you smoke, it’s imperative to quit. Your doctor at Boerne Family Medicine can recommend products or programs that can help.
If you have a cough that lasts more than three weeks, produces discolored mucus, or is accompanied by wheezing or a fever, please call or book an appointment online.