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Bronchitis is inflammation of the main air passages to the lungs. Bronchitis may be shortlived (acute) or chronic, meaning that it lasts a long time and often recurs. See also: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

The symptoms of either type of bronchitis may include:

Chest discomfort Cough that produces mucus; if it's yellow-green, you are more likely to have a bacterial infection Fatigue Fever -- usually low Shortness of breath worsened by exertion or mild activity Wheezing

Even after acute bronchitis has cleared, you may have a dry, nagging cough that lingers for several weeks. Additional symptoms of chronic bronchitis include:

Ankle, feet, and leg swelling Blue-colored lips from low levels of oxygen Frequent respiratory infections (such as colds or the flu)

Causes & Risk Factors

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:

The elderly, infants, and young children Persons with heart or lung disease Smokers

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:

Air pollution Allergies Certain occupations (such as coal mining, textile manufacturing, or grain handling) Infections

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:

Do not smoke Drink plenty of fluids Rest Take aspirin or acetaminophen (Tylenol) if you have a fever. DO NOT give aspirin to children Use a humidifier or steam in the bathroom

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.

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:

Emphysema Right-sided heart failure or cor pulmonale Pulmonary hypertension


DO NOT smoke. Get a yearly flu vaccine and a pneumococcal vaccine as directed by your doctor. Reduce your exposure to air pollution.

Wash your hands (and your children's hands) frequently to avoid spreading viruses and other infections.