Bronchitis is inflammation of the bronchial tubes, or passages that carry air to and from the lungs. Bronchitis is sometimes referred to as a chest cold and may be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term). Acute bronchitis is a common illness that may follow a cold or other respiratory infection, while chronic bronchitis is more serious. Bronchitis causes a productive cough and other respiratory symptoms. Acute bronchitis typically does not require treatment and will resolve on its own; however, chronic bronchitis may require inhaler use or pulmonary rehabilitation.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of both acute and chronic bronchitis include cough, production of mucus, tiredness, minor fever and chills, and chest discomfort. Acute bronchitis may leave people with a nagging cough for several weeks, whereas chronic bronchitis results in a cough lasting at least three months for two consecutive years. Coughing should not produce blood or be accompanied by a fever over 100.4 ┬░F (38 ┬░Celsius).

Doctors diagnose bronchitis by performing a physical exam and listening to the lungs. A chest X-ray can rule out other conditions that cause coughing and a sputum culture can check for bacteria that may signal another type of infection, such as pertussis (whooping cough). A pulmonary function test may be used to check for asthma or emphysema.


The same types of viruses that cause colds and influenza typically cause acute bronchitis. Smoking is the most common cause of chronic bronchitis, although pollution, dusts, and toxic gases can also be contributing factors. People who smoke, have a weak immune system, or work around lung irritants are more likely to develop bronchitis. When someone has bronchitis often, it may be caused by asthma, cystic fibrosis, tuberculosis, sinusitis, or bronchiectasis. Continue reading for Prevention and Treatment Information . .

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