How to Differentiate Acute & Chronic Bronchitis?

Q:

How to differentiate acute & chronic bronchitis?

A:

If you’re lucky a cold or the flu runs its course in a couple weeks. After that, you’re back to normal. But sometimes you may get bronchitis, too. There are actually two types of it: acute and chronic. Both also involve irritation and inflammation of the airways (bronchial tubes) that bring air to your lungs. But the similarities end there. Acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis are different illnesses.

Acute bronchitis is a relatively short-term illness that usually results from an infection. If you get acute bronchitis, you can expect to recover in a period of days.

In contrast, once it begins, chronic bronchitis is a lifelong, serious illness. Unfortunately, it’s also common. About 8.7 million people in the U.S. were diagnosed with chronic bronchitis in 2015.

Acute Bronchitis

Acute bronchitis is usually due to an infection and generally lasts from a few days up to 10 days – however, coughing may not stop for several weeks. It can be caused by the same viruses that cause the common cold, and it’s a common complication of colds and the flu, but bacterial infection can also cause it.

The lung irritants that can cause acute bronchitis include exposure to tobacco smoke (including secondhand smoke), air pollution, fumes and vapors, and dust. You can help reduce your risk of getting acute bronchitis by avoiding exposure to lung irritants as much as possible.

Depending on symptom severity, acute bronchitis will improve either with treatment or on its own.

Acute bronchitis symptoms include:

-Dry cough
-Low fever
-Shortness of breath
-Chest tightness
-Wheezing
-Fatigue

Chronic Bronchitis

Smoking is the most common cause of chronic bronchitis, but it can also result from ongoing exposure to such lung irritants as air pollution, chemicals, or dust.

With chronic bronchitis, the lining of your airways is always inflamed and irritated, so you always have a productive cough.

But that’s not all you need to be concerned about if you have chronic bronchitis. Because your airways are constantly inflamed, they’re more easily infected by viruses or bacteria. When that happens, you’re essentially having an attack of acute bronchitis on top of your chronic illness. As a result, your acute bronchitis symptoms are likely to be more severe and last longer compared to if you didn’t have chronic bronchitis.

To be diagnosed with chronic bronchitis, a person must have a productive cough (a cough that brings up mucus) for at least three months in two consecutive years.

Some of the most common chronic bronchitis symptoms include:

-A worsening cough that produces yellow or green mucus
-Shortness of breath
-Chest tightness or pain
-Increased tiredness or fatigue
-Swelling of legs, ankles, or feet

If you think you have acute bronchitis but you don’t start to feel better fairly quickly, contact your doctor to check whether you may have a different respiratory disorder.

Keyword: 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.