Bronchitis is an inflammation of the air passages between the nose and the lungs, including the windpipe or trachea and the larger air tubes of the lung that bring air in from the trachea (bronchi). Bronchitis can either be of brief duration (acute) or have a long course (chronic). Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a viral infection, but can also be caused by a bacterial infection and can heal without complications. Chronic bronchitis is a sign of serious lung disease that may be slowed but cannot be cured.
Acute bronchitis is characterized by the development of a cough, with or without the production of sputum, mucus that is expectorated (coughed up) from the respiratory tract. Acute bronchitis often occurs during the course of an acute viral illness such as the common cold or influenza. Viruses cause about 90% of cases of acute bronchitis, whereas bacteria account for fewer than 10%.
Causes and symptoms
Acute bronchitis usually begins with the symptoms of a cold, such as a runny nose, sneezing, and dry cough. However, the cough soon becomes deep and painful. Coughing brings up a greenish yellow phlegm or sputum. These symptoms may be accompanied by a fever of up to 102°F (38.8°C). Wheezing after coughing is common.
In uncomplicated acute bronchitis, the fever and most other symptoms, except the cough, disappear after three to five days. Coughing may continue for several weeks. Acute bronchitis is often complicated by a bacterial infection, in which case the fever and a general feeling of illness persist. To be cured, the bacterial infection should be treated with antibiotics.
* Avoid cigarette smoke. If you smoke, stop. People who smoke or are around others who smoke have more frequent bouts of acute bronchitis. Smoke (including secondhand smoke) reduces the body's ability to remove bacteria and viruses that can cause...