You have a cold, and you’ve been coughing for several days, and now you have discolored mucus. When you see your doctor, your doctor tells you that you have bronchitis. You wonder if it is the result of the cold or if you contracted it from another source. Your doctor tells you that it is a common infection, but you need to take care of yourself so that it doesn’t get worse and turn into pneumonia. In most cases, it clears up in a few days to a few weeks. If it does not, you may have chronic bronchitis.
What is Bronchitis?
Bronchitis is the inflammation of the bronchial tubes that attach your trachea or windpipe to your lungs. It is a common infection that occurs due to bacteria, viruses, and, in the chronic form, particulates. There are two types of bronchitis: acute and chronic. Both types can make you feel miserable and may require medical treatment of symptoms.
What is Acute Bronchitis?
Acute bronchitis is a type of bronchitis that occurs due to bacterial infections and viruses. Occasionally, acute bronchitis occurs due to particulates or fumes irritating your bronchial tubes. Both influenza or the flu, and colds can give you bronchitis. If the bronchitis is bacterial, the doctor may use antibiotics. If the flu or colds cause bronchitis, it is caused by viruses that do not respond to antibiotics.
What is Chronic Bronchitis?
Chronic bronchitis occurs due to the constant irritation of the bronchial tubes due to particulates such as pollution, chemicals, and smoking. It is much more serious than acute bronchitis as it occurs for at least three months out of the year for at least two years. It can occur with emphysema, which then can turn into chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
What are the Symptoms of Bronchitis?
Both acute and chronic bronchitis have similar symptoms, but the duration is different. Acute bronchitis symptoms can last a long time due to the healing process; however, it does eventually get better. Chronic bronchitis lasts longer and reappears. The symptoms of bronchitis include:
- Low fever
- Sputum production
- Shortness of breath
- Chest discomfort
- Chest tightening
- Muscle aches
- Clogged sinuses
- Stuffy nose
Causes of Acute Bronchitis: Viruses
Viruses can cause acute bronchitis which is why it is important to reduce your exposure to them. Because colds and flu can cause acute bronchitis, it’s important to wash hands regularly, avoid crowded places during cold and flu season, get your flu shot, and even wear a mask when going to places where you might get infected.
Causes of Acute Bronchitis: Bacteria
Bacteria such as those that may cause sinus infections can cause acute bronchitis as well. This is why it is important to wash your hands, stay away from crowded places during the colds season when sinus infections and strep throat are common, and wear a mask if you have to go to crowded places where people are infected.
Causes of Chronic Bronchitis: Smoking
Smoking puts particulates into your lungs and irritates them, causing you to get bronchitis. Frequent exposure to secondhand smoke can also give you chronic bronchitis. You can also get acute bronchitis through secondhand smoke or smoking, but repetitive exposure causes chronic bronchitis. The best way to avoid chronic bronchitis is to stop smoking or limit your exposure to secondhand smoke.
Causes of Chronic Bronchitis: Pollution
Living in the city or near a major highway increases your risks of developing chronic bronchitis. If you are constantly exposed to pollutants and particulates caused by pollution, you are constantly irritating your bronchial tubes which can cause bronchitis. If your airways don’t have a chance to heal, acute bronchitis will turn into chronic bronchitis. Wear a mask during high pollution days or stay indoors with a good air filtration system.
Causes of Chronic Bronchitis: Chemicals and Particulates
Exposure to chemicals, vapors, and fine particulates can help contribute to chronic bronchitis. Workers in factories, machine shops, welding, coal mines, sawmills, paper mills, and construction sites are at risk for developing chronic bronchitis. Wearing masks and ventilators will help reduce the particulates that will enter your lungs and reduce your risk of developing chronic bronchitis.
Causes of Chronic Bronchitis: Fire Fighting and Smoke
If you’re a firefighter or live in a fire-prone area, you are at a greater risk of developing acute and chronic bronchitis due to the smoke and chemicals associated with fires and firefighting. Masks and ventilators will help keep most of the particulates out of your lungs. If you live in an area with wildfires, you may wish to stay indoors and wear a mask when outdoors.