Bronchitis is a condition when the bronchi, the passages that carry air from the windpipe to and from the lungs, become inflamed.
Bronchitis is a common lower respiratory tract condition, often following a common cold and appearing in children less than five years of age. In many cases, bronchitis is acute, or short-lasting (less than three weeks) and self-limiting. Sometimes it can be chronic, persisting for a longer period of time especially in smokers, the elderly, those with chronic diseases, or those with a compromised or weakened immune system.
Symptoms of bronchitis may include:
Symptoms of chronic bronchitis include:
More serious symptoms requiring immediate attention include:
In acute bronchitis, inflammation is usually due to an infection by viruses or bacteria. The same viruses that cause the common cold and upper respiratory tract infection are usually responsible. Infection is transmitted by inhaling the virus suspended in airborne droplets or by direct contact with infected surfaces and placing the hands near the mouth or nose. Irritation and inflammation of the bronchial passage then creates excessive production of mucous. Bronchitis can become chronic due to exposure to environmental irritants, such as smoke, chemical fumes, dust, and pollution.
For acute or short-lasting bronchitis, typical treatment recommendations include resting in bed, drinking plenty of fluids and staying hydrated, and symptomatic treatment for fever using acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Bronchodilators, a type of medication that make breathing easier by relaxing the muscles in the lungs and widening the airways, and cough suppressants may sometimes be needed, although this is not recommended for children younger than six years of age. Antibiotics are not needed except in high-risk groups. If you smoke, you should stop.
For chronic or long-lasting bronchitis, certain lifestyle changes may help improve your condition, such as quitting smoking, using air purifiers at home, wearing protective gear in risky work environments, and avoiding pollution when possible. Medications, such as bronchodilators or mucolytics that make the mucus less thick and sticky and easier to cough up, may also be recommended. Antibiotics may be prescribed in cases with recurrent infections, or oxygen therapy.
Your physician may also want you to get a seasonal vaccination against the flu virus, and/or suggest chest physiotherapy and respiratory rehabilitation from a specialist.
Last reviewed February 2022.
Our noses facilitate breathing by helping to keep out potentially harmful dirt, allergens, and other agents. In addition to allergies, ENT specialists treat deviated septum, rhinitis, sinusitis, sinus headaches and migraines, nasal obstruction and surgery, and more.
The information on ENThealth.org is provided solely for educational purposes and does not represent medical advice, nor is it a substitute for seeking professional medical care.
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