The lining of your bronchial tubes, which transport air to and from your lungs, become inflamed when you have bronchitis. Bronchitis patients frequently cough up thicker mucus that may be colored. Chronic or acute bronchitis is both possible.

Acute bronchitis is a relatively common condition that frequently results from a cold or other respiratory illness. A persistent irritation or inflammation of the bronchial tube lining characterizes chronic bronchitis, a more dangerous illness that is frequently brought on by smoking.

Acute bronchitis, often known as a chest cold, typically goes away without leaving any residual symptoms, but the cough may remain for weeks. But if you get bronchitis more than once, you can develop chronic bronchitis, which calls for medical intervention. One of the disorders that makes up chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is chronic bronchitis (COPD).

Bronchitis: Causes

Viruses, frequently the same viruses that cause colds and the flu, are typically the cause of acute bronchitis (influenza). As viruses are not killed by antibiotics, they are ineffective in treating bronchitis in the majority of cases.

Cigarette smoking is the most frequent cause of chronic bronchitis. The illness can also be exacerbated by dust, poisonous gases, and air pollution at work or in the surroundings.

Bronchitis: Symptoms

The major symptoms include −

  • Cough

  • Production of blood-stained mucus (sputum), which can be clear, white, yellowish-gray, or green in color on rare occasions.

  • Fatigue

  • Breathing difficulties, a little temperature, and chills

  • Uncomfortable chest

You can experience cold symptoms like a minor headache or body pains if you have acute bronchitis. Although these symptoms often go away in about a week, you can have a persistent cough for several weeks.

A productive cough that lasts at least three months and recurs for at least two years in a row qualifies as chronic bronchitis. There may be times when the cough or other symptoms of chronic bronchitis get worse. You could have chronic bronchitis at such periods in addition to an acute infection.

Although a single bout of bronchitis often doesn't require medical attention, in certain cases it might result in pneumonia. On the other hand, persistent bronchitis may indicate that you have chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD).

Bronchitis: Risk Factors

The major risk factors include −

  • Tobacco smoke. Both acute and chronic bronchitis is more common in those who smoke or who live with a smoker.

  • Minimal resistance. This might be the outcome of a chronic illness that weakens your immune system or another acute sickness like a cold. Infants, young children, and older people are more susceptible to illness.

  • Encountering irritants at work. If you work with specific lung irritants, such as grains or textiles, or are exposed to chemical fumes, your chance of having bronchitis is higher.

  • Stomach reflux. Frequent episodes of excruciating heartburn can irritate your throat and increase your risk of bronchitis.

Bronchitis: Diagnosis

It might be challenging to discern between bronchitis and a regular cold during the initial stages of the illness. During the physical examination, your doctor will carefully listen to your lungs while you breathe using a stethoscope.

Your doctor may recommend the following tests in some circumstances −

  • A chest X-ray. If you have pneumonia or another ailment that might be the cause of your cough, a chest X-ray can assist diagnose it. This is crucial if you have ever smoked or are now a smoker.

  • Pneumonia testing. The mucus that you cough up from your lungs is known as sputum. You can get checked to discover if you have any conditions that antibiotics might be able to treat. Sputum can be examined for allergy symptoms as well.

  • Lung function examination. You breathe into a spirometer during a pulmonary function test to assess how much air your lungs can contain and how quickly they can expel it. This examination looks for indicators of asthma or emphysema.

Bronchitis: Treatment

Most likely, your doctor won't recommend any drugs to treat your bronchitis. In some circumstances, you may be able to address the underlying cause or alleviate symptoms by using drugs, such as −

  • Drugs that fight viruses. Your doctor may suggest an antiviral drug if the flu is the root cause of your bronchitis. Antiviral medications might help you feel better faster if you start taking them as soon as your symptoms appear.

  • Bronchodilators. If you're experiencing problems breathing, your doctor could recommend a bronchodilator (a medication that helps expand your airways).

  • Drugs that reduce inflammation. To treat inflammation, your doctor may advise corticosteroids and other drugs.

  • Antitussive medications. Antitussives, or cough suppressants, are available over the counter and by prescription. Dextromethorphan and benzonatate are examples of this.

  • Antibiotics. It's quite unlikely that you'll receive antibiotic treatment for bronchitis unless your doctor suspects a bacterial infection.

  • COPD/asthma therapy. Your doctor may prescribe extra drugs or breathing treatments for chronic bronchitis if you have COPD or asthma.


A breathing exercise program called pulmonary rehabilitation, in which a respiratory therapist teaches you how to breathe more comfortably and improve your ability to exercise may be helpful if you have chronic bronchitis.

You might wish to attempt the following self-care techniques to make yourself feel better −

  • Avert lung irritants. Avoid smoking. When the air is contaminated or you are among irritants like paint or cleansers with potent fumes, use a mask.

  • Apply a humidifier. Warm, humid air relieves coughs and helps to clear your airways of mucus. To prevent the development of germs and fungus in the water container, however, be sure to clean the humidifier by the manufacturer's instructions.

  • Think about wearing a mask outside. Put on a cold-air face mask before you walk outdoors if the cold air makes your cough worse and makes you feel breathless.

Bronchitis: Prevention

One can take the following preventive measures to avoid the chances of getting bronchitis −

  • Steer clear of smoking. Smoking cigarettes raises your chances of developing chronic bronchitis.

  • Get a vaccine. Flu, a virus, is the cause of many occurrences of acute bronchitis. An annual flu shot can help prevent you from contracting the illness. Consider being vaccinated against some forms of pneumonia as well.

  • Sanitise your hands. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers often and wash your hands often to lower your chance of contracting a viral illness.

  • Put on a mask for surgery. If you have COPD, you might want to think about using a face mask at work if you are exposed to dust or fumes, as well as when you will be around a lot of people, as when you are traveling.


Acute bronchitis is a respiratory illness that lasts no more than three weeks and is characterized by a persistent cough and, occasionally, the production of sputum. As the source of acute cough, this condition should be recognized as the common cold, an immediate aggravation of chronic bronchitis, and acute asthma. Antibiotics should not be used often to treat acute bronchitis, and active measures to reduce their usage should be supported.

Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha
Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha


Updated on: 29-Mar-2023


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