Bronchitis is a respiratory disease in which the mucus membrane in the lungs' bronchial passages becomes inflamed.

As the irritated membrane swells and grows thicker, it narrows or shuts off the tiny airways in the lungs, resulting in coughing spells that may be accompanied by phlegm and breathlessness.

The disease comes in two forms: acute (lasting from one to three weeks) and chronic (lasting at least 3 months of the year for two years in a row).

People with asthma may also have asthmatic bronchitis, inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes.

Symptoms of Bronchitis

A productive cough that persists several days to weeks
Wheezing sounds when breathing
Tightness or dull pain in the chest
Shortness of breath
Fever is unusual and suggests pneumonia or flu.

Acute Bronchitis

Acute bronchitis often develops 3-4 days after a cold or the flu. It may start with a dry cough, then after a few days the coughing spells may bring up mucus. Most people get over an acute bout of bronchitis in two to three weeks, although the cough can sometimes hang on for four weeks or more. If you're in otherwise good health, your lungs will return to normal after you've recovered from the initial infection.

This form of bronchitis is more common in winter and 9/10 cases are caused by a virus. Irritants like tobacco smoke, smog, chemicals in household cleaners, even fumes or dust in the environment can also cause acute bronchitis.

Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis is a serious condition that makes your lungs a breeding ground for bacterial infections and may require ongoing medical treatment. It's one form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. The "smoker's cough" is sometimes a sign of bronchitis and COPD.

Smoking is by far the most common cause of chronic bronchitis. Exposure to dust and toxic gases is a much less common cause, seen in miners and grain handlers. Air pollution can make symptoms worse for people with chronic bronchitis.


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