Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes - the airways that carry air into your lungs. It leads to coughing spells, chest discomfort, wheezing, and fatigue. Bronchitis can be acute or chronic. Let's look at the recovery time for each type. Acute Bronchitis Acute bronchitis often occurs after having a viral cold or the flu. The same viruses that infect your nose and throat also can inflame the airways leading to your lungs. Common causes of acute bronchitis: • Rhinovirus (common cold virus) • Influenza virus (flu virus) • Adenovirus • Parainfluenza virus • Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) Acute bronchitis usually develops about 5 to 10 days after having a viral illness like a cold or the flu virus. Symptoms include: • Cough, often worse at night • Mucus production • Wheezing • Chest discomfort • Low grade fever • Fatigue For most healthy people, acute bronchitis resolves on its own within 3 to 4 weeks, though the cough may linger for up to 8 weeks. Treatment for Acute Bronchitis There is no cure for acute viral bronchitis. Treatment focuses on managing your symptoms and making you comfortable while your immune system clears the infection. • Get plenty of rest. Avoid strenuous activity which can aggravate coughing. • Stay hydrated. Drink lots of fluids like water or herbal tea to keep mucus thin and easy to cough up. • Try a humidifier. Breathing in moist air can soothe inflamed airways. • Use cough medicine. Over-the-counter cough suppressants and expectorants can help control coughing. • Suck on lozenges. Cough drops and throat lozenges can temporarily numb and soothe an irritated throat. See your doctor if symptoms don't start to improve after about a week or if you have difficulty breathing. You may need prescription cough medicine or an inhaler to open your airways. With rest and supportive care, most cases of acute bronchitis will clear up within about 3 to 4 weeks. However, the lingering cough may persist for several more weeks after that. Chronic Bronchitis Chronic bronchitis is defined as a productive cough (coughing up mucus) lasting at least 3 months, for two consecutive years. It's caused by long-term irritation and inflammation of the bronchial tubes. Causes of chronic bronchitis include: • Cigarette smoking • Secondhand smoke • Air pollution • Dust or fumes in the environment People with chronic bronchitis have inflamed airways that produce excess mucus and make it hard to clear it out of the lungs. Symptoms include: • Chronic cough with mucus • Wheezing • Shortness of breath • Frequent respiratory infections There's no cure for chronic bronchitis. Treatment focuses on managing symptoms and preventing flare-ups which can significantly impact your quality of life. Treatment for Chronic Bronchitis • Quit smoking. This is the most important step. Smoking cessation can help improve symptoms. • Avoid lung irritants. Stay away from air pollution, chemical fumes, dusts, and secondhand smoke. • Use inhalers. Bronchodilator inhalers like albuterol help open the airways. Steroid inhalers reduce inflammation. • Take mucus-thinning drugs. Medications like guaifenesin help thin secretions and make them easier to cough up. • Get vaccinated. Flu and pneumonia vaccines prevent infections that can worsen bronchitis. During acute flare-ups, you may need to increase medication and limit activity. Attacks of chronic bronchitis can last several weeks, especially if the underlying inflammation isn't properly controlled. While chronic bronchitis has no cure, with proper treatment you can manage symptoms effectively and prevent attacks from becoming severe. Over time, symptoms may improve and attacks may become less frequent. The Bottom Line • Acute bronchitis usually goes away within 3-4 weeks but the cough can linger for up to 8 weeks. • Chronic bronchitis is a persistent condition requiring ongoing treatment and monitoring. Attacks can last for several weeks. The duration of bronchitis depends on the type - acute or chronic. See your doctor if symptoms don't improve to determine if you need additional medication. With proper diagnosis and treatment, acute symptoms can resolve and chronic bronchitis can be managed.


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