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Bronchitis - Types, Causes, Symptoms,Treatment, Diagnosis, and Prevention

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Bronchitis - Types, Causes, Symptoms,Treatment, Diagnosis, and Prevention

4 min read


Bronchitis is a lung disease. Read this article to know more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment.

Written by

Dr. Lochana .k

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Gadge Gauri Narendra

Published At May 20, 2020
Reviewed AtAugust 29, 2022

What Is Bronchitis?

In humans, air reaches the lungs through the windpipe. This windpipe further divides into a bronchus and the bronchus into bronchioles. The inhaled air reaches bronchioles through bronchus. In bronchitis, there will be inflammation and swelling of the bronchus. If there is an inflammation in the bronchioles, the condition is referred to as bronchiolitis. Bronchitis will produce a cough that may be accompanied by sputum.

What Are the Types of Bronchitis?

There are two types of bronchitis. Acute and chronic bronchitis are the two types. In acute conditions, bronchitis occurs at a sudden onset. This is the most common one. In chronic conditions, the symptoms might be existing for a longer duration. This is more serious. Chronic bronchitis may be defined by using the presence of phlegm on most days, at least 3 months per year for ≥2 yrs. This can occur in patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

What Are the Symptoms of Bronchitis?

The symptoms of bronchitis are:

  • Acute bronchitis is a self-limiting infection in most cases, with symptoms typically lasting about 2 weeks.

  • The feeling of congestion of the chest.

  • The cough may be accompanied by mucus along with its discoloration.

  • The cough may be lasting for more than one month in chronic cases. The inflammation in the bronchial tubes takes a long time to heal..

  • A low degree of fever and chills.

  • Body pain.

  • Headaches.

  • Nose feels blocked most of the time. The runny nose will be seen in acute conditions.

  • Wheezing and shortness of breath will be seen.

In chronic bronchitis, a productive cough will be lasting for a longer duration. The production of sputum, along with the cough, is known as a productive cough.

What Are the Causes of Bronchitis?

Identifying causative pathogens for acute bronchitis is quite difficult and most clinical studies report identification in less than 30% of cases. Almost 90% of cases are related to viruses and less than 10% to bacteria.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most common cause of severe acute respiratory infection in children. The other important cause being the symptoms evoked as a result of allergic reactions to pollen grains, dust-mites present in old dust, and pets.

The virus that is causing flu and cold is the cause of acute bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is caused by abusive practices, such as smoking. Air pollution can also be the cause of chronic bronchitis. For good health, the food, air, and water should be fresh and pure. The smokeless air will keep us away from allergic reactions and cough. Certain occupations can be the reason, as well. The people who are working in factories emitting smoke tend to inhale the polluted air. The impure air respired in the factories contributes to the ill-health of the individual.

How Is It Transmitted?

The transmission of bronchitis occurs due to direct contact with the droplets of sputum released by infected patients. Patients need to follow coughing etiquettes to prevent the spread of one’s disease.

What Are the Risk Factors of Bronchitis?

  • Asthma.

  • Weak immune system.

  • The risk of bronchitis is more in female smokers than male smokers.

  • Older people are more likely to have bronchitis, and the risk is higher in these patients.

  • A family history of lung disorders.

How Is It Diagnosed?

The diagnosis will require the help of the doctor, especially in chronic bronchitis. Your doctor will ask you to perform certain tests along with the clinical examination. The patient should provide a detailed history of the condition. The diagnostic test varies according to the acute and chronic conditions. The following are the diagnostic tests for bronchitis:

Oxygen Level: The oxygen level in the blood is tested. The levels are tested with the help of a sensor. The device used to test the oxygen levels are known as a pulse oximeter. The sensor identifies the level of oxygen using a finger.

Spirometry: It is a type of lung function testing. This device can be used to diagnose other lung diseases such as COPD, emphysema, and asthma.

Chest X-ray:Chest X-ray is the basic investigation and it helps in ruling out other respiratory diseases as pneumonia, tuberculosis.

Blood Tests: The infection can be identified with blood tests. An increase in the number of white blood cells can occur during infection.

What Are the Treatment Options?

The healing requires adequate rest and good sleep. Acute bronchitis is a self-limiting condition. In some cases, cough suppressants, expectorants, mucolytics, antihistamines, inhaled corticosteroids, and bronchodilators may be required to relieve the symptoms. But the symptoms of chronic bronchitis may continue for more than a month. If you feel very tired due to continuous coughing, you should consult your pulmonologist.

Medications for Cough: Coughing is a useful reflex for removing the mucus from the bronchial tubes. However, medications can give temporary relief, especially at night.

Bronchodilators in the form of inhalers: The bronchodilators help to keep the bronchial tubes dilated and reduce inflammation.

Mucolytics: Mucolytics aid in easier expulsion of sputum through cough or sneeze. It makes the secretions thin and less sticky so that they can be removed easily from the air-passages.

Anti-inflammatory and Antihistamine Agents: Antihistamine drugs and steroids are given to reduce the inflammatory condition in the lungs.

Oxygen Therapy: In very severe and complicated cases, the patient might need the help of oxygen therapy as supplementation.

Steam Therapy: Steam therapy is an ancient method known to ease many respiratory disorders. Specifically, when you have a continuous blockage in your nose, let the steam air from hot boiled water to spread through your nostrils. This can totally give you relief and also helps you sleep better.

What Are the Prevention Measures?

It is not possible to completely prevent the condition of bronchitis. Certain lifestyle modifications have to be made for healthy living.

  1. Avoid smoking cigarettes. Quitting the habit of smoking is the best option.

  2. Certain lung irritants should be avoided. The irritants might be smoke, vapors, fumes, and pollutants.

  3. It is always good to cover your nose and mouth. This can protect you from getting exposed to pathogens like bacteria and viruses.

  4. Take proper vaccinations to protect yourself from the flu and pneumonia.

  5. The objects and utensils used by the patient should be cleaned properly. The unwanted items that are used by them should be eliminated in the garbage by proper sanitation.

  6. Eat healthy fruits and vegetables.

  7. Cold food items should be avoided as they can enhance the difficulties in breathing.

What Is the Differential Diagnosis?

Feel like discussing your doubts on bronchitis? Call a doctor online.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Is the Cause of Bronchitis?

Bronchitis (inflammation of the covering that lines the bronchial tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs) is mainly caused due to viral infections that may result in flu or common cold. Bronchitis could be acute or chronic, depending on the duration of exposure to the virus. Other causes of bronchitis include bacterial infection or inhalation of chemical agents.


What Is the Best Drug for Bronchitis?

Doxycycline and Amoxicillin are the most frequently used drugs in case of bronchitis. These drugs are macrolide antibiotics. Some side effects of these antibiotics include nausea, vomiting, and skin rash. Besides the above-mentioned drugs, bronchodilators (drugs that open up the airways) and corticosteroids (drugs to reduce inflammation) may be prescribed for better relief.


Is Treatment Required for Bronchitis?

Treating bronchitis is essential to prevent any permanent damage to the lungs, as they are important for respiration. And if they are left untreated, they can lead to pneumonia (lung infection caused due to inflammation and fluid accumulation in air sacs). And any damage to the lungs can result in respiratory distress. Hence, it is essential to treat bronchitis.


Is Bronchitis a Disease?

Bronchitis is better identified as a condition of the lungs and not a disease. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can cure the symptoms of the condition. In addition, it helps with better healing of the lungs and improved breathing.


What Is the Common Name for Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is most commonly referred to as chest cold or congestion. This is due to the accumulation of sputum in the respiratory tract. It could result in wheezing and chest discomfort. However, the symptoms improve within a week without lasting effects.


What Is the Most Common Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is of two types, namely acute and chronic bronchitis. Both of them are caused by the same virus that causes colds. Acute bronchitis is the most common type, which is the short-term inflammation of bronchial tubes or airways. It causes symptoms like chest discomfort, coughing, and mucus production. Taking proper treatment can help to minimize the symptoms and promote lung health.


Is Bronchitis a Serious Condition?

A single episode of bronchitis may not cause serious complications. However, frequent episodes of bronchitis may result in pneumonia (lung infection caused due to inflammation and fluid accumulation in air sacs). If bronchitis lasts more than a month, it could imply wheezing or other lung conditions.


How Does Bronchitis Spread?

Bronchitis is a contagious disease that spreads through the droplets of an infected person. Hence, avoiding close contact with the affected person is essential as it may affect the healthy individual. In addition, the virus could spread through various modes, like infected objects and clothes used by the affected person.


Is Bronchitis a Terminal Condition?

Acute bronchitis usually heals within a week with proper medication. However, chronic bronchitis may last for a lifetime if not treated appropriately. Hence, it is essential to visit the doctor, get an opinion regularly, and follow up to prevent complications.


Is It Possible to Sleep With Bronchitis?

Sleeping with bronchitis could often be difficult, as there may be breathing problems like shortness of breath or wheezing. It may affect the quality of sleep and cause sleeping disorders. In addition, the condition may worsen if there is sputum buildup in the lungs that triggers a cough while sleeping.
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Dr. Gadge Gauri Narendra
Dr. Gadge Gauri Narendra

Pulmonology (Asthma Doctors)


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