Acute bronchitis, usually caused by a viral infection, is the more common of the two. It generally lasts 10 to 14 days but can cause symptoms for three weeks. Chronic bronchitis is defined as an ongoing illness whereby an infected person has a persistent cough productive of sputum for three months of the year for at least two consecutive years. It may be caused by an initial respiratory infection or illness or exposure to tobacco smoke or other irritating substances in the air. When chronic bronchitis causes airflow obstruction it is then grouped under the term chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Symptoms of bronchitis include a cough that is persistent and produces mucus, shortness of breath, and a lack of energy. You may also develop a fever and a wheezing sound when breathing.
Bronchitis is usually brought on by a viral infection. However, it can also be caused by a bacterial infection. One of the main causes of bronchitis is smoking tobacco. Other causes include exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke, dust, toxic fumes, and air pollution. If you have a family history of bronchitis or have asthma and allergies, you can have an increased risk.
As acute bronchitis is caused by an infection with a virus or bacteria, it can be contagious. Chronic bronchitis on the other hand is less likely to be contagious, as it is caused by long-term irritation of the airways. If you have a viral form of bronchitis you can be contagious for at least a few days up until a week. A bacterial form of bronchitis can be treated with antibiotics, in which case you usually stop being contagious 24 afters after starting the course of medicine.
Bronchitis caused by a viral or bacterial infection is spread by germs traveling through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, the same way that colds are spread. You can get infected by breathing in germs, touching something that is contaminated with germs, and then touching your nose, mouth, or eyes.
You can reduce the risk of getting infected with bronchitis by regularly washing your hands to limit exposure to germs and bacteria. You should quit smoking and avoid other lung irritants such as smoke, fumes, dust, and air pollution. You should also wear a mask when pollution levels are high.
Acute bronchitis is a common condition that usually resolves itself within a few days, while chronic bronchitis is an ongoing condition. If you experience a cough that lasts more than 3 weeks, a fever that lasts 3 days or longer, blood in your mucus, rapid breathing, chest pains, recurring or worsening symptoms, then you should consult a doctor. If an infected continue to smoke, they may develop worsening symptoms or life-threatening conditions such as emphysema and COPD.