Bronchitis is the inflammation of air passages that lead directly to the lungs. There are two main types of bronchitis: acute and chronic. Either of the conditions can be aggravated by exposure to inhalants that irritate the lungs, such as cigarettes and air pollution. People who have other underlying medical conditions such as heart or lung disease are at high risk for developing bronchitis and therefore should not smoke.
Acute bronchitis is a temporary condition that may develop after a respiratory infection caused by a virus. A person may develop a severe or persistent cough that may be accompanied by mucus. The infection will usually go away on its own within 7 to 10 days and usually does not require the use of antibiotics. If symptoms persist, contact a doctor.
Chronic bronchitis is a long-term chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that causes a frequent cough with excessive mucus for at least three months. People diagnosed with this condition should not smoke or should stop smoking immediately to keep symptoms from worsening or producing additional complications.
When to Seek Emergency Care
A person should seek medical assistance if he or she begins to exhibit the following symptoms:
- A severe cough that produces blood
- A low-grade fever that persists for at least three days
- High fever accompanied by shaking chills
- Thick, green mucus, often accompanied by a foul odor
- Chest pain or shortness of breath
The condition often worsens after exposure to tobacco smoke, air pollution, or other inhaled contaminants.