Chronic Bronchitis

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: George Schiffman, MD, FCCP
    George Schiffman, MD, FCCP

    George Schiffman, MD, FCCP

    Dr. Schiffman received his B.S. degree with High Honors in biology from Hobart College in 1976. He then moved to Chicago where he studied biochemistry at the University of Illinois, Chicago Circle. He attended Rush Medical College where he received his M.D. degree in 1982 and was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. He completed his Internal Medicine internship and residency at the University of California, Irvine.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Bronchitis symptoms

Bronchitis Treatments

What are acute bronchitis home remedies?

The treatment of acute bronchitis is geared toward prevention, control, and relief of symptoms (supportive care). In some cases, the following is all that is needed:

  • drink plenty of fluids to maintain proper hydration (avoiding dehydration and humidify air); and
  • use of acetaminophen and ibuprofen to treat fever and decrease the inflammatory resposne.

Quick GuideBronchitis Symptoms and Treatments

Bronchitis Symptoms and Treatments

Bronchitis vs. chronic bronchitis definition and facts

  • Bronchitis is a term that describes inflammation of the bronchial tubes (bronchi and the smaller branches termed bronchioles) that results in excessive secretions of mucus into the tubes with tissue swelling that may narrow or close off bronchial tubes.
  • Chronic bronchitis is defined as a cough that occurs every day with sputum production that lasts for at least 3 months, 2 years in a row.
  • The major cause of chronic bronchitis is cigarette smoking; other causes are bronchial irritants, usually inhaled repeatedly by the affected person.
  • Ideally, people should seek medical care before chronic bronchitis develops. People should seek care for tobacco addiction and the occasional chronic cough (less than daily for 3 months) to potentially avoid developing chronic bronchitis. Those with chronic bronchitis should seek care for severe dyspnea, cyanosis, and fever immediately.
  • Clinical history and physical exams help diagnose chronic bronchitis, while other tests such as chest X-rays, pulmonary function tests, and CT imaging studies may also be used.
  • Treatment of most people with chronic bronchitis is to quit cigarette smoking and avoid air-borne bronchial irritants; medical treatments include bronchodilators, steroids, and oxygen therapy.
  • The major complications of chronic bronchitis are severe shortness of breath, COPD, respiratory failure, and an increased mortality rate.
  • Risk factors for chronic bronchitis include smoking, exposure to airborne chemicals and secondhand smoke, dust, and other bronchial irritants.
  • A majority of cases of chronic bronchitis can be prevented by not smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke. Avoidance of air-borne bronchial irritants, vaccinations, and asthma prevention may help prevent bouts of chronic bronchitis.
  • Although the disease is chronic and progressive, patients that are diagnosed early before much bronchial damage occurs and who stop smoking (or avoid airborne dust, chemicals or other situations that lead to bronchial irritation) often have a good prognosis for many years.

What is bronchitis?

Bronchitis is a term that describes inflammation of the bronchial tubes (bronchi and the smaller branches termed bronchioles) that results in excessive secretions of mucus into the tubes, leading to tissue swelling that can narrow or close off bronchial tubes. Bronchial tubes extend from the trachea and terminate at the alveoli in the lungs; the bronchial system resembles an inverted tree and is sometimes termed the "bronchial tree." A few authors include the trachea and upper airway in the definition. There are two major types of bronchitis, acute and chronic. Many investigators conclude that recurrent incidences of acute bronchitis are the first steps that can lead to developing chronic bronchitis. Although this article is designed to present chronic bronchitis, a short section will be devoted to acute bronchitis so the reader will be able to understand the differences between acute and chronic bronchitis.

What is acute bronchitis?

Acute bronchitis is bronchitis that is short-lived; the bronchitis lasts about two weeks and usually people recover with no permanent damage to the bronchial tree. Viruses such as influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and rhinoviruses cause the majority of cases of acute bronchitis, while the remainder are caused by bacteria (for example, Mycoplasma, Pneumococcus) or short-term exposure to chemical irritants (for example, tobacco smoke, gastric reflux contents, inhaled solvents).

What are the symptoms of acute bronchitis?

Symptoms of acute bronchitis may include:

Some people may cough up phlegm. Chronic bronchitis differs from acute bronchitis in several ways described below (for example, pathology, progression of disease, major causes, treatments, and outcomes).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/11/2016

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