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Understanding the Difference Between Acute and Chronic Bronchitis

Understanding the Difference Between Acute and Chronic Bronchitis

Having a cold or flu can make life miserable for about a week. It’s common for acute bronchitis to extend your illness by a few more days, sometimes leaving behind a nagging cough that lasts weeks. 

Chronic bronchitis sounds similar in name, but it carries a cough that lasts for three months or longer. Even when it finally clears, you’ll have further occurrences, lasting more than two years. Symptoms often go through intense periods and you can develop additional infections. 

Acute and chronic bronchitis are similar in symptoms, but much different in cause and duration. Visit the bronchitis specialists in Fayetteville, Georgia, at Alpha Internal Medicine when bronchitis-related coughing gets the best of you. 

What goes on in your chest

The bronchial tubes are the main passageways of air into and out of the lungs. When the inner lining of these tubes becomes inflamed, a series of symptoms begins that are characteristic of bronchitis, both acute and chronic. You can expect: 

Acute bronchitis often develops from a respiratory infection such as the cold or flu, so you may experience additional symptoms associated with those conditions. 

The difference between acute and chronic bronchitis

Acute bronchitis develops from viruses, often the same ones that created the cold or flu before the coughing characteristic of bronchitis begins. Because there’s little that can be done medically to fight viral diseases, treatment for acute bronchitis focuses on symptom relief. 

The home care regimen for colds and flu apply to acute bronchitis, too. In particular: 

Chronic bronchitis is most often caused by smoking or long-term exposure to pollutants. It’s not viral or contagious. The symptoms are long-term and treatments usually are as well. 

Medications include bronchodilator inhalers and steroids, usually in pill form. These drugs reduce inflammation in the bronchial tubes, making breathing easier. In severe cases, oxygen therapy helps to make breathing easier. Pulmonary rehabilitation, a breathing exercise program, helps to restore your ability to breathe efficiently. 


You can avoid acute bronchitis by taking the same steps you would against other respiratory issues. Wash your hands frequently. Get regular vaccinations for respiratory illnesses when they are available, and consider wearing masks and sanitizing often in public places. 

Smoking increases your risk for many breathing-related issues including acute and chronic bronchitis. Avoiding smoke and kicking the habit are the best ways to assure you continue to breathe easy. 

The more you smoke, the greater your risk of developing chronic bronchitis. It can also lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a serious breathing issue that progresses over time. 

Regardless of the type of bronchitis you have, when breathing gets difficult it’s time to contact Alpha Internal Medicine, by phone or online. Get the care you need by scheduling an appointment today. 

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