No doubt you've had your share of colds. Perhaps you even know someone who
has had pneumonia. In between these two conditions is an illness called
bronchitis, which is more severe than the common cold but not as dangerous as pneumonia.
What is bronchitis?
Bronchitis occurs when the bronchioles (air tubes in the lungs) are inflamed
and make too much mucus. There are two basic types of bronchitis:
- Chronic bronchitis is a cough that persists for two to
three months each year for at least two years. The cough and inflammation
may be caused by infection, illness, or exposure to tobacco smoke or other
irritating substances in the air.
- Acute or short-term bronchitis is more common and
usually is caused by a viral infection. Episodes of acute bronchitis
can be related to and worsened by smoking.
What are the symptoms of bronchitis?
Symptoms of bronchitis include:
- A cough that is frequent and produces mucus
- A lack of energy
- A wheezing sound when breathing (may or may not be present)
- A fever (may or may not be present)
When should I see my health care provider?
See your health care provider if you have:
- A cold that lasts more than two to three weeks
- A fever greater than 102° F
- A fever that lasts more than five days
- A cough that produces blood
- Any shortness of breath or wheezing
- A change in the color of mucus
How can I take care of myself?
If you have bronchitis:
- Drink fluids every one to two hours, unless your doctor has restricted your fluid intake.
- Don't smoke.
- Relieve body aches by taking aspirin or acetaminophen.
- Follow your doctor's instructions on ways to help you clear your mucus.
- If you have a dry cough that is non-productive (there is no mucus), your
doctor may prescribe a cough medicine to suppress your cough. He may
also prescribe an expectorant to help loosen and mobilize mucus.
- If you have a moist, productive cough (with mucus), note how
often you cough as well as the color and amount of the sputum (mucus). Report this to your doctor.
What can I do to reduce my risk of getting bronchitis?
- Don't smoke.
- Insist that others do not smoke in your home.
- Stay away from or try to reduce your time around things that
irritate your airway (nose, throat, and lungs).
- If you catch a cold, get plenty of rest.
- Take your medicine exactly the way your doctor tells you.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Wash your hands often.
Where can I learn more?
American Lung Association
61 Broadway, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10006
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute Diseases and Conditions Index: What is Bronchitis?
www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/brnchi/brnchi_whatis.html Accessed 7/20/2011
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Bronchitis (Chest Cold) www.cdc.gov/GetSmart/antibiotic-use/URI/bronchitis.html Accessed 7/20/2011
American Lung Association. Understanding Chronic Bronchitis. www.lungusa.org/lung-disease/bronchitis-chronic/understanding-chronic-bronchitis.html
© Copyright 1995-2011 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.
Can't find the health information you’re looking for?
This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 7/20/2011...#3993