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What is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is an irritation and inflammation of the main upper airways that carry air to your lungs. When your airways become irritated they produce sputum (mucus). When sputum is present then you start to cough. So now that you know “What is Bronchitis?”, do you think you have acute or chronic bronchitis?

There are two types of bronchitis:

• Acute bronchitis comes on quickly usually over a period of one to two days and gets better after 2 weeks. Most healthy individuals who get acute bronchitis feel better and recover without any problems.

• Chronic bronchitis reoccurs, which means it keeps coming back and can last a long time. People who smoke generally have chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis means you have a cough with sputum production most days of the month for at least 3 months of the year for 2 years in a row. With chronic bronchitis usually comes the diagnosis of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

This section concentrates on acute bronchitis. Both adults and children can get acute bronchitis.

What are the causes of acute bronchitis?

Acute bronchitis is most often caused by a virus. Typically, a person acquires acute bronchitis following an upper respiratory infection such as a cold or influenza. In rare instances, bronchitis may be caused by a bacterial infection. Acute bronchitis can also be caused by breathing in irritants, such as smoke, aerosol sprays or any type of foreign object or fluid.

What are the symptoms of bronchitis?

The most common first symptom of bronchitis is a persistent, dry, hacking cough. After a few days your cough may begin to produce yellow/green sputum. You may run a low grade fever (99 degrees) and feel tired or sluggish.Acute bronchitis symptoms most often begin 3 or 4 days after an upper respiratory infection. Most people recover get better in 2 to 3 weeks. But others continue to have a productive cough for more than 4 weeks. Pneumonia can exhibit symptoms similar to acute bronchitis. Since pneumonia can be very serious, it’s important to recognize the differences between the two illnesses. Pneumonia can include shortness of breath, chills with shaking and a high fever.

How does your doctor diagnose acute bronchitis?

Your doctor may ask how you’ve been feeling, will want to know your symptoms and then you will be examined. The doctor will listen to your lungs and obtain your temperature. This most often is enough information for the doctor to diagnose you with acute bronchitis. Depending on your symptoms, the doctor may take a chest X-Ray to rule out pneumonia or other lung problem.

How is bronchitis treated?

If you are coughing up yellow or green sputum your doctor may order antibiotics that will help clear your lung infection. Most people recover from bronchitis at home with no treatment at all. Use an expectorant that can be found in an over-the-counter cough medicine. Drink plenty of fluids to thin the sputum production. This will help you expectorate (bring up) sputum when you cough effectively. You may use cough drops to soothe a sore or dry throat. Cough drops will not stop you from coughing but they may soothe your throat. So now you know the answer to “What is Bronchitis?”