Bronchitis - acute

Acute bronchitis is swelling and inflamed tissue in the bronchi, the main passages that carry air to the lungs. This swelling narrows the airways, which makes it harder to breathe. Other symptoms of bronchitis are a cough and coughing up mucus. Acute means the symptoms have been present only for a short time.


The major features of the lungs include the bronchi, the bronchioles and the alveoli. The alveoli are the microscopic blood vessel-lined sacks in which oxygen and carbon dioxide gas are exchanged.


Bronchitis is the inflammation of the bronchi, the main air passages to the lungs. It often results from a respiratory infection caused by a virus or bacteria. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing and fatigue.

Causes of acute bronchitis

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, the part of the respiratory system that leads into the lungs. Acute bronchitis has a sudden onset and usually appears after a respiratory infection, such as a cold, and can be caused by either a virus or bacteria. The infection inflames the bronchial tubes, which causes symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, wheezing, and the production of thick yellow mucus. If acute bronchitis occurs because of a bacterial infection antibiotics are given for the treatment. Otherwise if the infection is viral medications can only be given to alleviate the symptoms. Although acute bronchitis is relatively common, some people are more prone to it than others.

Lung anatomy

When air is inhaled through the nose or mouth, it travels down the trachea to the bronchus, where it first enters the lung. From the bronchus, air goes through the bronchi, into the even smaller bronchioles and lastly into the alveoli.

Causes of chronic bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis is most frequently caused by long term irritation of the bronchial tubes. Bronchitis is considered chronic if symptoms continue for three months or longer. Bronchitis caused by allergies can also be classified as chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is caused most often by exposure to airborne pollutants such as cigarette smoke, excessive dust in the air, or chemicals. The bronchial lining becomes inflamed and the constant exposure to such pollutants begins to cause damage in the bronchioles (the smaller airways in the lungs). Symptoms of chronic bronchitis include shortness of breath or wheezing, chest pain, and chronic productive cough.

COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to chronic lung disorders that result in blocked air flow in the lungs. The two main COPD disorders are emphysema and chronic bronchitis, the most common causes of respiratory failure. Emphysema occurs when the walls between the lung's air sacs become weakened and collapse. Damage from COPD is usually permanent and irreversible.

A lot of things can make you cough. Breathing in cigarette smoke, smelling a coworkers flowery perfume, or being sick with an infection can all leave you hacking. One of the infections that causes coughing is called bronchitis. Bronchitis is inflammation in the airways that lead to the lung. If you've got bronchitis, there's a good chance you started out with a respiratory infection like a cold, and it spread to your lungs. Either a virus or bacteria can cause this infection. The cough may clear up within a few days, but if it lingers for at least 3 months it's called chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is part of a group of lung diseases known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD for short. Smoking is one of the biggest causes of bronchitis and COPD. If you have bronchitis, you'll cough, and cough, and cough. In fact, the cough can stick with you for weeks. When you cough, you may bring up a sticky goo called mucus. If the mucus is yellow-green in color, that makes us think it might be a bacterial infection. Other symptoms of bronchitis include chest pain, wheezing, shortness of breath, and fatigue. To find out if you have bronchitis, your doctor will listen for crackly sounds in your chest when you breathe. You may also need a chest x-ray or other tests to see how well your lungs are working. So, how is bronchitis treated? Antibiotics won't treat bronchitis if a virus caused it, because they only kill bacteria. If you have a bacterial infection, you can take an antibiotic. The best way to get over bronchitis are with rest and time. While your lungs are healing, drink plenty of fluids and perhaps use a humidifier to loosen up mucus. Whatever else you do, don't smoke or be around anyone who is smoking or smells like smoke. The smoke will only make your cough worse. Bronchitis often clears up within a week or so, but the cough can stick around for weeks, or even months later, especially if you have a lung problem. While you're sick, call your doctor if you start to run a high fever, you feel short of breath or have chest pain, or your cough just won't go away. You can help protect yourself against bronchitis by washing your hands often, getting a pneumonia vaccine, and getting a flu vaccine each year to prevent some of the diseases that cause it. Be kind to your lungs by staying far away from cigarettes. If you need help kicking the habit, see your doctor.



Exams and Tests


Outlook (Prognosis)

When to Contact a Medical Professional