Acute bronchitis is swelling and inflammation of the main air passages to the lungs. This swelling narrows the airways, making it harder to breathe and causing other symptoms, such as a cough. Acute means the symptoms have only been present for a short time.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Acute bronchitis almost always follows a cold or flu-like infection. The infection is caused by a virus. At first, it affects your nose, sinuses, and throat. Then it spreads to the airways leading to your lungs.
Sometimes, bacteria also infect the airways. This is called a secondary infection.
Chronic bronchitis is a long-term condition. To be diagnosed with chronic bronchitis, you must have a cough with mucus most days of the month for at least 3 months.
The symptoms of acute bronchitis may include:
Cough that produces mucus; it may be clear or yellow-green
Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.