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Bronchitis or a Cold that Keeps Coming Back

Bronchitis or a Cold that Keeps Coming Back

Inflammation of the bronchial tubes is brought on by the infectious viral infection known as acute bronchitis. The air enters your lungs through these passages. These tubes enlarge when they become infected. Inside them, mucus (a viscous fluid) develops. As a result, breathing becomes more difficult for you.


Acute and chronic bronchitis are 2 different forms. Chronic bronchitis lasts a long time and can come back. It is typically brought on by ongoing discomforts, such as smoking. Acute bronchitis doesn't last very long. Although the cough can linger for several weeks, the majority of cases improve in a few days.




When individuals refer to "bronchitis" they typically mean "acute bronchitis," a transient illness that causes coughing. Some people experience bronchitis so frequently that it is regarded as chronic.


Chronic bronchitis


A viral infection is typically the cause of acute bronchitis, which resolves on its own in a few weeks. Most patients with acute bronchitis don't require medical attention.


Chronic bronchitis


If you cough up mucus regularly for three months out of the year, you may have chronic bronchitis. For at least two years, this has continued. You might have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) if you have persistent bronchitis. Find out from your doctor if you need to get tested for COPD.




Signs and symptoms of either acute or chronic bronchitis may include:


  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Slight fever and chills
  • Chest discomfort
  • Production of blood-stained mucus (sputum), which can be clear, white, yellowish-gray, or green on rare occasions.


You can experience cold symptoms like a minor headache or body aches if you have acute bronchitis. Although these symptoms often go away in about a week, you can have a persistent cough for several weeks. A productive cough that lasts at least three months and recurs for at least two years in a row qualifies as chronic bronchitis.


There may be times when the cough or other symptoms of chronic bronchitis get worse. You might have chronic bronchitis at such periods in addition to an acute infection.




A virus nearly often causes bronchitis. However, it can be brought on by almost anything that irritates your airways. Both viral and noninfectious factors can cause bronchitis:


  • Viruses - The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), adenovirus, rhinovirus (the common cold), and coronavirus are among the viruses that can cause bronchitis.
  • Using marijuana (cannabis) or cigarettes 
  • Pollution 
  • Bacteria - Chlamydia pneumonia, Mycoplasma pneumonia, and Bordetella pertussis are some of the bacteria that cause bronchitis.


How does bronchitis affect you?


You develop bronchitis when the mucus in your airways congeals and swells. By having intimate contact (shaking hands, hugging, or touching the same surfaces) with someone who has the viruses and bacteria that cause bronchitis, you can acquire them yourself. You don't need to have bronchitis to infect someone else with the virus that causes bronchitis. The air you breathe contains additional irritants, such as smoke or pollution.

Risk Factors


  • Cigarettes - Both acute and chronic bronchitis are more common in those who smoke or who live with a smoker.
  • Low resistance - This could be the outcome of a chronic illness that weakens your immune system or another acute illness like a cold. Infants, young children, and older adults are more susceptible to illness.
  • Irritants - If you work with specific lung irritants, such as grains or textiles, or are exposed to chemical fumes, your risk of having bronchitis is higher.
  • Gastric reflux - Repeated episodes of excruciating heartburn can irritate your throat and increase your risk of bronchitis.



Based on a physical examination and your symptoms, your doctor can typically determine whether you have bronchitis. They will inquire about your cough, including how long it has lasted and what kind of mucus it produces. Additionally, they'll listen to your lungs to hear whether you're wheezing or making any other abnormal sounds.


Depending on whether they think you have acute or chronic bronchitis, your doctor may need to do some tests. These tests could consist of:


  • Oxygen levels - A sensor placed on your finger or toe allows you to do this.
  • Chest X-ray - This is done to rule out pneumonia or any other condition that might be the source of your cough.
  • Test your mucus - Whooping cough, often known as pertussis, is one of them. It results in a strong cough that restricts airflow. Your doctor will also take a nasal swab if they suspect you are suffering from this or the flu.
  • Lung function test - To check for asthma and emphysema (a form of COPD in which the air sacs in your lungs are damaged), you will breathe into a device called a spirometer.
  • Blood tests - These can measure your blood's carbon dioxide and oxygen levels or look for infections.
Dr Saket Sharma
Respiratory & Sleep Medicine
Meet The Doctor
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