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Bronchitis is a respiratory disease where there is inflammation and irritation of the bronchial tube lining. These tubes are responsible for carrying air to your lungs and the condition can be acute or chronic. Acute bronchitis is temporary, common and easy to treat. It isnt a serious condition, but will need treatment. Chronic bronchitis is more serious and needs immediate medical attention. This is often from lifestyle choices such as smoking that causes almost constant irritation and inflammation of the lungs. With acute bronchitis, the condition is usually from an upper respiratory infection and can be gone in about 2 weeks while chronic bronchitis has more serious symptoms and lasts months to years. There is also another form of bronchitis called asthmatic bronchitis that occurs with people who have asthma.

Causes and Risk Factors of Bronchitis

Acute and chronic bronchitis each have their own set of causes and risk factors, though many of them are similar. The most common causes of acute bronchitis are viruses like the influenza (flu) virus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), parainfluenza and adenovirus. Lesser common causes are some types of bacteria and pollutants like irritants or airborne chemicals. If you get acute bronchitis multiple times without proper treatment, it could eventually lead to chronic bronchitis. Other causes of chronic bronchitis include industrial pollution such as that of coal miners and molders of metal and long-term cigarette smoke use. Aside from cigarette smoke, risk factors for bronchitis include having a weakened immune system that makes you susceptible to infections, exposure to pollutants or chemical fumes for your job and even second-hand smoke in some cases.

Signs, Symptoms and Tests of Bronchitis

Before discussing the signs and symptoms of bronchitis, you should first know that chronic bronchitis can cause periods of time when symptoms are worse than other times. This doesnt mean you no longer have chronic bronchitis, but that symptoms are simply more similar to that of acute bronchitis. Some of the signs and symptoms of acute and chronic bronchitis are listed below.

Acute Bronchitis Symptoms:

With acute bronchitis, you will experience a cough with mucus after the first couple days, chest soreness, fatigue, headache, a low fever, watery eyes, mild body aches, sore throat, hacking cough, and phlegm that is green, yellow or white.

Chronic Bronchitis Symptoms:

Chronic bronchitis causes many of the same symptoms but are more severe. You will also have phlegm but it is often more than with acute bronchitis and the cough is more persistent, often lasting three months or longer. You may also have a high fever and wheezing associated with breathlessness.

If you have acute or chronic bronchitis and experience a very high fever, worsening symptoms, bloody sputum, cough that is interfering with daily activities, darker or thicker mucus, or also have other serious medical conditions like HIV, heart problems or lung problems, consult a doctor. If you cant breathe or are having chest pains, get emergency medical attention.

Diagnosing Bronchitis

If your doctor suspects you might have bronchitis, they will first perform a physical exam. Some tests are performed to diagnose bronchitis especially since the symptoms of acute bronchitis are similar to the common cold. These test include a chest x-ray, sputum culture and a pulmonary function test.

Treatment, Drugs and Prevention of Bronchitis

If you suspect you have a form of bronchitis, seek medical help as soon as possible. Treatment of bronchitis depends on whether it is acute or chronic. This makes having a physical exam even more important and to understand how to treat your condition properly. Many people with acute bronchitis can treat it at home with over-the-counter medications, drinking more fluids, getting warm, moist air and resting. Some forms of bronchitis, including chronic, might require antibiotics, cough medicine or additional medications for opening the lung passages. Pulmonary rehabilitation is another treatment options for the more severe cases of bronchitis. To prevent bronchitis, have good hygiene, so you avoid contracting it from someone else, dont smoke cigarettes, avoid exposure to secondhand smoke and get vaccinated. If you are showing signs of bronchitis, call your doctor and begin a course of treatment.