Bronchitis is a condition causing inflammation in the tubes that carry air to and from the lungs, known as the bronchial tubes. The disease may be acute or chronic.

Bronchitis begins from a cold or other respiratory infection to acute bronchitis, also known as the chest cold. Generally, it recovers within a week to 10 days without enduring effects, but the cough can remain for weeks.

The chronic state of bronchitis is more severe, causing constant irritation or inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, often due to smoking. People with bronchitis frequently cough up thickened mucus that may be discolored.

The repeated bouts of bronchitis can induce chronic bronchitis that needs medical care. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) includes a state called chronic bronchitis.

Understand the symptoms

Symptoms like cough, fatigue, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, slight fever and chills are common in both conditions - acute bronchitis or chronic bronchitis. Also, mucus production (sputum) from clear, white, yellowish-gray or green and, in some rare cases, even streaked with blood may occur.

In acute bronchitis, cold symptoms like mild headache or body aches may happen that usually recover in about a week, while cough can persist for almost several weeks.

Chronic bronchitis or a productive cough may last for at least three months, and its recurring bouts can happen for about two consecutive years.

For some days, cough or other symptoms are worsened as you may have an acute infection along with chronic bronchitis.

Consult the doctor

Get doctor advice if cough lasts for over three weeks, preventing you from sleeping. And if it is accompanied by fever higher than 100.4 F (38 C), it produces discolored mucus or sometimes blood and causes wheezing or shortness of breath.

Know the causes

Acute bronchitis occurs from viruses, similar to those that cause colds and flu (influenza) that are not treated with antibiotics. Chronic bronchitis is mainly because of cigarette smoking. The other factors are air pollution, dust, or toxic gases in the environment or workplace contributing to the condition.

Recognize the risks

Factors that raise the risk of bronchitis are:

• Cigarette smokers and those who live with a smoker are at higher risk of acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis.
• People with a weakened immune system, caused due to other acute illnesses, like cold or chronic conditions. Also, older adults, infants, and young children are more vulnerable to infection.
• You are working in conditions where you have exposure to lung irritants that develop bronchitis like grains or textiles, or chemical fumes.
• The recurrence of severe heartburn can aggravate the throat, making you more prone to developing bronchitis.

Associated complexities

A single occurrence of bronchitis isn't a risk but may lead to pneumonia in some people. Repeated bouts could result in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Measures for prevention

The following tips can prevent and lessen bronchitis infection:

• Quit cigarette smoke as it raises the risk of chronic bronchitis.
• Get flu vaccinated each year as acute bronchitis many times results from influenza, a virus. You can also consider vaccination that protects against a few kinds of pneumonia.
• Frequent handing washing habit lessens the risk of catching a viral infection.
• If you have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, wearing a face mask at work or when you're exposed to dust or fumes or travelling or in crowds with help.

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