Inflammation - bronchi; Acute bronchitis
Bronchitis is inflammation of the main air passages to the lungs. Bronchitis may be short-lived (acute) or chronic, meaning that it lasts a long time and often recurs.
Acute bronchitis generally follows a viral respiratory infection. At first, it affects your nose, sinuses, and throat and then spreads to the lungs. Sometimes, you may get another (secondary) bacterial infection in the airways.This means that bacteria infect the airways, in addition to the virus.
People at risk for acute bronchitis include:
Chronic bronchitis is a long-term condition. People have a cough that produces excessive mucus. To be diagnosed with chronic bronchitis, you must have a cough with mucus most days of the month for at least 3 months.
Chronic bronchitis is one type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD for short. (Emphysema is another type of COPD.)
The following things can make bronchitis worse:
The symptoms of either type of bronchitis may include:
Even after acute bronchitis has cleared, you may have a dry, nagging cough that lingers for several weeks.
Additional symptoms of chronic bronchitis include:
The health care provider will listen to your lungs with a stethoscope. Abnormal sounds in the lungs called rales or other abnormal breathing sounds may be heard.
Tests may include:
You DO NOT need antibiotics for acute bronchitis caused by a virus. The infection will generally go away on its own within 1 week. Take the following steps for some relief:
If your symptoms do not improve, your doctor may prescribe an inhaler to open your airways if you are wheezing. If your doctor thinks that you have a secondary bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed. Most of the time, antibiotics are not needed or recommended.
For any bronchitis, the most important step you can take is to QUIT smoking. If bronchitis is caught early enough, you can prevent the damage to your lungs.
For acute bronchitis, symptoms usually go away within 7 to 10 days if you do not have an underlying lung disorder. However, a dry, hacking cough can linger for a number of months.
The chance for recovery is poor for persons with advanced chronic bronchitis. Early recognition and treatment, combined with smoking cessation, significantly improve the chance of a good outcome.
Pneumonia can develop from either acute or chronic bronchitis. If you have chronic bronchitis, you are more likely to develop recurrent respiratory infections. You may also develop:
Call your doctor if:
Braman SS. Diagnosis and management of cough: ACCP Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines. Chest. 2006;129:1S-23S.
Gwaltney JM. Acute bronchitis. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2005:chap 58.
© 2011 University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). All rights reserved.
UMMC is a member of the University of Maryland Medical System,
22 S. Greene Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. TDD: 1-800-735-2258 or 1.866.408.6885