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Have a persistent cough? The cause might be bronchitis, or inflammation of the bronchial tubes carrying air to and from your lungs.

When your bronchial tubes are inflamed, they produce extra mucus. This mucus makes breathing more difficult and causes you to cough.

Acute bronchitis is a short-term condition that usually goes away on its own. Chronic bronchitis is serious, long-term problem.

Bronchitis: what you should know

  • Acute bronchitis usually develops after a cold, flu or other viral infection. Only rarely is bronchitis caused by a bacterial infection, so antibiotics usually are not effective against it.
  • To help prevent acute bronchitis, wash your hands regularly to avoid getting or passing along an infection.
  • Smoking is the main cause of chronic bronchitis. If you have chronic bronchitis, you should focus on quitting smoking as soon as possible. Doctors at Rush can recommend smoking cessation programs.
  • Chronic bronchitis is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

How can I get help for bronchitis?

Symptoms of bronchitis include the following:

  • Difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Cough that brings up mucus
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Wheezing, particularly if you also have asthma

Chronic bronchitis causes a cough with mucus on most days for at least three months a year, two years in a row. The symptoms of acute bronchitis usually last no more than three weeks (though a dry cough may persist afterward for several weeks).

If you have the symptoms listed above and they do not go away, see your doctor. Experts at Rush can draw on their experience to find the root of your problem.

Care for bronchitis at Rush

Acute bronchitis usually goes away on its own. If you have chronic bronchitis, your care at Rush might involve one or more of the following:

  • Medications to help you stop coughing
  • Medications to expand your airways and help clear the mucus
  • Oxygen therapy

If you have acute or chronic bronchitis, it is important to avoid second-hand smoke and quit smoking as soon as possible.

Why choose Rush for bronchitis care

  • If you have bronchitis and asthma, you can get specialized care at the Rush Allergy, Asthma and Sinus Center, where doctors work with children and adults to deal with these related problems at the same time.
  • If you have chronic bronchitis, or COPD, pulmonologists at Rush can help to manage your symptoms, slow the progression of the disease and improve your quality of life.

Departments and programs that treat this condition