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Symptoms of Bronchitis

Acute and Chronic Bronchitis


Updated May 16, 2014

Symptoms of Bronchitis

Normal Bronchi vs. Bronchitis

Symptoms of Bronchitis

There are two different types of bronchitis -- acute and chronic. They are both an inflammation of the airways leading to the lungs, but have different causes and, obviously, durations. Chronic bronchitis is a lifelong condition that results from continued exposure to lung irritants, such as smoke. While they have similar names, acute and chronic bronchitis are different illnesses. A person with chronic bronchitis can have flare ups of the disease and can even get acute bronchitis. Acute bronchitis is a relatively short illness that results from an infection.

Acute Bronchitis

Acute bronchitis is usually due to an infection and generally lasts for no more than a few weeks and will resolve either with treatment or on its own. It can be caused by the same viruses that cause the common cold and is a common complication of the cold or flu.

Symptoms of acute bronchitis include:

  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Wheezing
  • Fatigue

Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis is a disease that develops in people with underlying lung disease and may come and go but is never gone completely. Chronic bronchitis is a chronic inflammation of the airways and is most frequently caused by smoking, but can also be a result of air pollution, exposure to chemicals or dust in the workplace and certain rare genetic diseases. Sadly, chronic bronchitis is common. At least 8.9 million people were diagnosed with chronic bronchitis in 2005 in the United States.

To be diagnosed with chronic bronchitis, a person must have a productive cough for at least three months in two consecutive years.

Some of the most common symptoms of chronic bronchitis exacerbation include:

  • Worsening cough that produces yellow or green mucous
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Increased tiredness or fatigue
  • Swelling of legs, ankles or feet


Bronchitis. U.S. National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health 31 Jul 2007. 05 Aug 2007.

Bronchitis. Faststats A to Z. National Center for Health Statistics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 22 Feb 2007. 05 Aug 2007.

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