Bronchitis is inflammation of the cells lining your bronchial airways. Bronchitis affects males more than the females. Bronchitis can be due to an infection (viral or bacterial in origin), inhalation of smoke, dust or any other irritating substance.
Bronchitis can be either acute or chronic. Acute bronchitis is common among children below the age of 5 years, while chronic bronchitis is common in males 50 years of age or older. Smoking tobacco increases the risk of developing bronchitis.
Acute bronchitis is common all around the world, and is one of the top 5 conditions that people see a doctor for. It usually follows an upper respiratory tract infection. Acute bronchitis that occurs in previously healthy individuals is usually due to viral infection. Bronchitis is more likely to develop in habitual cigarette smokers and in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Initially the patient develops an irritating cough with no sputum production, often associated with some discomfort behind the sternum. This is sometimes accompanied by wheezing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing. Over time, the cough becomes sever and produces yellow or green sputum. Some individuals may develop a fever alongside the above symptoms.
Acute bronchitis resolves spontaneously in about 4 -8 days and does not last for more than 3 weeks duration.
Is acute bronchitis contagious?
Yes, it is contagious. Most cases of bronchitis are caused by a viral infection. Many viruses can cause bronchitis, but the Influenza virus is the most common culprit. When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, droplets of saliva are released to the air; any person who happens to inhale these droplets can become infected by the virus. The virus can also be transmitted when an infected person touches an object, and another person touches that same object and then touches their own mouth, eyes, or nose.
Chronic bronchitis is characterized by a persistent cough with sputum lasting for at least 3 months, and which reoccurs for at least 2 consecutive years. Chronic bronchitis is one of the conditions associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Chronic bronchitis is very common among habitual smokers. Persistent exposure to the irritants found in tobacco smoke lead to inflammation of the bronchial lining. As a response to this inflammation, the mucous secreting glands in the bronchial lining increase in size and number. The resulting over-production of mucus is further aggravated by inflammatory enzymes such as proteases. This excess mucus, together with the scarring caused by chronic inflammation, contributes to the narrowing of the airways and a reduction in air flow.
Individuals with excess mucus production, such as smokers, are predisposed to recurrent infections. Ongoing inflammation damages the cilia lining the respiratory tract. Cilia are an important structure for protection against infection, as they help expel microorganisms which become trapped in the mucus of your respiratory tract. In habitual smokers, the cilia are damaged and do not protect as effectively against infection.