Bronchitis Center

Bronchitis Symptoms

When viruses reach the lungs, the bronchial tubes can eventually become infected, and the body's defence mechanisms kick in. This is when your body produces mucus for the bronchial tubes and the bronchial tubes become inflamed. Inflammation of the bronchial tubes produces mucus and related symptoms of coughing, discomfort, and wheezing: the common symptoms of bronchitis.

While both acute and chronic bronchitis share the similarity that in both there is inflammation of the bronchial tubes, there are a few symptoms that are different from one to the other. Let's take a look at the symptoms of acute and chronic bronchitis.

Acute bronchitis
If you experience a case of acute bronchitis, you might first notice difficulty breathing. Symptoms of acute bronchitis usually last from a few days to 10 days (with an exception of a small, irritable cough that may last for several weeks while your body is healing the bronchial tubes). Coughing can occur a good deal of the time, and cough up mucus, which may be clear, green or yellowish. If you try to cough up regularly in order to get rid of this mucus, you may experience a dry and scratching feeling in side your lungs. And, you may wheeze when you try to breathe, making a noticeable noise from your lungs. Othe symptoms of acute bronchitis include:

  • body aches
  • body chills
  • chest congestion
  • coughing
  • fever
  • mucus production (clear, yellowish, or green)
  • shortness of breath, especially with physical activity
  • sore throat
  • wheezing (with noticeable noise)

Chronic bronchitis
People diagnosed with chronic bronchitis exhibit a set of particular symptoms for an extremely long time. In response to irritants such as cigarettes, the body produces significant amounts of mucus, for example. Additionally, symptoms of chronic bronchitis are typically worse than those of acute bronchitis. Symptoms of chronic bronchitis include:

  • chest discomfort
  • coughing that produces large amounts of mucus ('smoker's cough')
  • wheezing (with noticeable noise)

Symptoms of chronic bronchitis may get worse during allergy season, or during autumn or winter, when cold viruses are more common. Coughing might also be more common in the morning ('smoker's cough') or during wet weather. Additionally, chronic bronchitis can get worse over time because the bronchial tubes become scarred from the constant inflammation. This, in turn means that the bronchial tubes produce more mucus.

And, because the airways are already inflamed, a person diagnosed with chronic bronchitis is more likely to contract a case of acute bronchitis which may take longer to control. Other chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases are likely to occur also with a person with chronic bronchitis, specifically emphysema.

When to seek help
Usually, acute bronchitis will go away on its own. Chronic bronchitis may last significantly longer. However, acute bronchitis symptoms may be confused with symptoms that are either due to infections from a cold, flue, pneumonia, etc. This is why you should see a doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Bronchitis that comes and goes regularly
  • A cough that lasts longer than 3 weeks
  • A cough that prevents a good night's sleep
  • A fever, or symptoms of other, serious conditions (e.g. flu, pneumonia)
  • Heart or lung problems

Additionally, a person should see the doctor if he/she is elderly, an infant, or are a smoker. This is because bronchitis is more likely to develop into pneumonia in these groups of people. When you go to visit your doctor, what will he/she look for in order to make a diagnosis? To learn more about diagnosing bronchitis how doctors know if acute bronchitis contagious read here for more information.

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