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Bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways of the lower respiratory system. It can be either acute or chronic and viral or bacterial. It occur in patients of all ages. If you think you might have bronchitis, follow a few simple steps to recognize which kind of bronchitis you have and how to get treatment.

Inform yourself about acute bronchitis. Acute bronchitis is the inflammation and infection of the lower respiratory tract. For it to be acute, the condition typically lasts for less than three weeks. Acute bronchitis can be due to viral or bacterial etiologies. It can even be caused by a combination of both if you end up with a case of secondary bronchitis infection.

About 90% of acute bronchitis infections cases are viral, which come from many viruses such as the adenovirus, rhinovirus, influenza virus, and coronavirus.

Look for a cough. The most common symptom of bronchitis is a cough. With acute bronchitis, the cough will start out dry and hacking. After a few days, the cough will begin to produce sputum. Sputum is a type of loose mucus that can be clear, white, yellowish, and green colored. Sometimes, if the cough is harsh enough, it may be blood-tinged.

Although cough is the primary symptom of bronchitis, it can be a symptom of many other diseases as well such as pneumonia, asthma, or cancer. If this is your only symptom, look for other symptoms as well to pinpoint exactly which condition you have.

Watch out for other common symptoms. There will likely be runny nose or nasal congestion, at least to some degree. You may run a slight fever and have chills with acute bronchitis. There may be wheezing, especially at night, or shortness of breath. This wheezing and coughing can also cause chest discomfort. There may also be some pain associated with very strong coughing fits, which can cause the muscles between the ribs to become sore.

  • It is possible to break or fracture a rib from strong coughing.
  • If your fever is exceptionally high, you may have another condition such as pneumonia because a high fever is not common with bronchitis.

Understanding Chronic Bronchitis

  • The primary cause of chronic bronchitis is tobacco use. Because of this, chronic bronchitis is a common precursor to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema.

Be aware of the risks. The people at the most risk of chronic bronchitis are those who are or have been heavy smokers. You are also at risk if you have had severe bacterial or viral infections that affected the lungs or if you breathed in industrial dusts and fumes. When tobacco smoke or air pollutants such as dust or soot is breathed into the airways, it causes them to become irritated. The cells of the lower respiratory tract that secrete mucus, the goblet cells, go into overdrive. This causes them to secrete mucus at a very high rate into the respiratory passages, which causes a chronic cough.

  • Research indicates that inflammation of the airways persists for more than 13 years after a person has stopped smoking.
  • People with occupations such as metal molders, grain handlers, and coal miners are at an increased risk due to the excessive environmental irritants.

Recognize the symptoms. The main symptom of chronic bronchitis is sputum production from a cough that occurs every day for at least three months, which reoccurs at least two years in a row. The mucus causes obstructions to airways, and this causes even thicker mucus as a consequence. Unlike acute bronchitis which starts within in a few days, chronic bronchitis’s onset is gradual. The mucus produced is typically yellow or brownish in color.

  • You will likely also have chest tightness, shortness of breath, and sometimes struggling to breathe. You may also experience fatigue, a sore throat, muscle aches, nasal congestion, and headaches.
  • Since chronic bronchitis often comes hand in hand with COPD, you may see all the symptoms of COPD such as wheezing lungs, weight loss, and cyanosis, which is a bluish or grayish skin discoloration due to low oxygenation.
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