Acute Bronchitis Vs. Chronic Bronchitis: What Are the Differences?

Q:
Acute bronchitis vs. chronic bronchitis: What are the differences?

A:
There are two types of it bronchitis: Acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis.

Acute bronchitis is the more common one between these two. Symptoms of acute bronchitis last for a few weeks, but it doesn’t usually cause any further problems. Acute bronchitis often develops 3 to 4 days after a cold or the flu. It may start with a dry cough. After a few days, the coughing spells may bring up mucus.

Most people get over an acute bout of bronchitis in 2 to 3 weeks. However, the cough can sometimes last for 4 weeks or more. If you’re in good health, your lungs will return to normal after you’ve recovered from the initial infection.

Cause
Acute bronchitis is more common in winter and 9 out of 10 cases are caused by a virus. Irritants such as tobacco smoke, smog, chemicals in household cleaners, even fumes or dust in the environment can also cause acute bronchitis.

Diagnosis
By reviewing how your symptoms have developed over time and through a physical examination, acute bronchitis can be diagnosed. Using a stethoscope, your doctor will listen for any abnormal sounds produced within your lungs when you breathe.

Treatment
Drink lots of fluids, get plenty of rest, and avoiding smoke and fumes to relieve the symptom.A non-prescription pain reliever may help with body aches. Your doctor may prescribe an expectorant to help loosen mucus so it can be more easily coughed up or an inhaled bronchodilator medicine to open your airways.

 


While acute bronchitis is the more common bronchitis, chronic bronchitis is the more serious bronchitis between these two. Once you get it, it keeps coming back or doesn’t go away at all.It’s one of the conditions that makes up what’s called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. People who smoke are more likely to get it.

When you have a cough with phlegm on most days for at least 3 months in a year, for two years in a row, doctors would suspect that you might get chronic bronchitis. It makes your lungs a breeding ground for bacterial infections and may require ongoing medical treatment.

Cause
Smoking is by far the most common cause of chronic bronchitis. It might be caused by workplace exposure to dust and toxic gases, which is a much less common cause, seen in miners and grain handlers. Air pollution can make symptoms worse for people with chronic bronchitis.

Diagnosis
Your doctor may recommend pulmonary function testing after doing a medical history and physical exam. Pulmonary function tests like spirometry measure how well the lungs are working. A chest X-ray may also be done.

Treatment
Quit smoking to prevent ongoing damage to your lungs if it is caused by smoking. Unless your doctor advises against it, get a pneumococcal vaccine and an annual flu vaccine. Treatment may include bronchodilators and steroids (inhaled or by mouth).

 

Keywords: acute chronic bronchitis

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.