Bronchitis is inflammation (swelling) of the airways along with an increase in mucous production. Bronchitis may be classified as either acute (sudden onset) or chronic (long term).
Acute BronchitisAcute bronchitis is usually caused by a viral infection of the upper respiratory system. Symptoms of acute bronchitis may be experienced during or after a common cold. The onset of symptoms can appear suddenly and generally last 7-10 days. However, coughing can last up to 3 weeks or longer.
Chronic BronchitisChronic bronchitis is defined as having a mucous producing cough for 3 months of a year for 2 years in a row. It is normally associated with constant irritation of the airways. While smoking is a major cause of chronic bronchitis, other factors such as dust and air pollution also contribute to the problem.
Where Does All This Mucous Come From?Mucous, also called phlegm, is a sticky, gel-like substance produced in the airways of the lungs by cells called goblet cells. Mucous serves a very important role in helping to catch and remove dust and other irritating particles in the air we breathe. Goblet cells respond to irritants and pollution by producing more mucous. Furthermore, research has shown that the lungs of smokers tend to have more goblet cells than the lungs of non-smokers. This could be a response to the constant irritation that smoker's airways are exposed to.
Treatment for BronchitisTreatment for bronchitis usually focuses on reducing the irritation to the airways. Bronchodilators are helpful in some people that have symptoms of airway tightness. The best treatment for chronic bronchitis is to eliminate anything in your environment that could irritate your airways. An air cleaner may help to eliminate some of the irritants in your home and a room humidifier may help to keep secretions from getting too thick. Also, If you are a smoker, you should quit. If you are unable to stop smoking, at least try not to smoke in your house. Sitting in a room filled with irritating smoke is very harmful to your lungs and only makes chronic bronchitis worse.