Bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways. Chronic bronchitis is a serious condition when the bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from your lungs, become inflamed over a long period of time. This can cause a chronic cough.

Overview and Symptoms

If you have bronchitis, you might wheeze or have chest discomfort. Your breathing might become very quick, because the bronchial tubes cannot funnel enough air.

Smoking is a major cause of chronic bronchitis. Overexposure to lung irritants, including tobacco smoke, air pollution, dust, fumes and vapors from a specific work environment can also cause or worsen symptoms.

Symptoms include:

  • Mild fever
  • A cough that doesn’t go away
  • Sputum (mucus) production
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing

Acute bronchitis typically lasts three to seven days. However, even if the infection is gone, symptoms may last for several weeks due to inflammation of the airways caused by the body’s own immune response

There are a number of ways to diagnose bronchitis. These methods include a physical exam with a stethoscope, a lung function test, imaging tests, and/or sputum tests. Please consult your physician if you experience symptoms.

Treatment

Most often, treatment includes over-the-counter medications that are designed to break up mucus and treat aches and pains, although in some cases steroidal inhalants or a short course of the steroid prednisone may be prescribed. You may also be advised to stay hydrated.

Typically, antibiotics are not prescribed for bronchitis. In some cases, a secondary infection can happen, resulting from bacteria that live in the upper airways, mouth or throat, which take advantage of the body’s weakened condition. A change in color or quantity of mucus or a new round of fevers may result. In such cases, an antibiotic may need to be prescribed.

Learn More

The Chest Disease Center combines a team of highly skilled specialists with state-of-the-art facilities to provide multidisciplinary evaluation, treatment and care to patients who have benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous) lung diseases.

Chest Disease Center