What is bronchitis?

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the air passages between the throat and the lungs. This often includes the trachea and the bronchioles.


What are some types of bronchitis?

There are several ways to identify bronchitis. Among these are viral, bacterial, acute and chronic bronchitis. Acute bronchitis is usually a short-lived illness caused by a viral infection. It may also be caused by bacteria or irritants in the air, such as allergens or air pollution. Chronic bronchitis is a condition associated with excessive mucus production sufficient to cause coughing for at least three consecutive months to a year. The most common causes of chronic bronchitis are cigarette smoking and occupational exposure.


What are some of the symptoms of bronchitis?

Symptoms of bronchitis include a cough that produces sputum (mucus coughed up from the lungs), fever and fatigue. Viral bronchitis usually follows a cold or flu-like illness. Sputum coughed up is usually clear or white and fever is moderate if present. Bacterial bronchitis may begin abruptly with a high fever cough that produces yellow or green sputum and occasionally chest pain or shortness of breath. An individual with symptoms of bacterial bronchitis should see a clinician. Some tests may be ordered.


How can bronchitis be treated?

The treatment for Bronchitis includes rest and increased fluids to help clear the secretions. A humidifier may also be helpful. Expectorants may be helpful because it loosens the mucus. Since coughing is the best way to clear the secretions, cough suppressants should not be taken unless the cough is excessive or is interfering with sleep. Acetaminophen may be used to treat the fever and chest wall discomfort. Antibiotics are necessary if a bacterial infection is suspected. Bronchodilators or steroids may be helpful if an environmental toxin or allergen is suspected. Regardless of the cause of the bronchitis, cigarette smoking (or smoking of any kind) must be stopped, at least during the acute illness. The best way to stop chronic bronchitis is to stop cigarette smoking entirely.