Photo: Getty Images
Inflammation in the lining of the bronchial tubes can cause bronchitis. The bronchial tubes are the airways that make the connection between the trachea, which is also known as the windpipe, and the lungs. The lining of the bronchial tubes acts as a protection and a covering for the respiratory system.
Bronchitis comes with a cough. The associated excessive mucus production, wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightness constricting the chest can make life miserable. Increased mucus production that begins to form in the lining of the bronchial tubes is the body’s attempt to reduce the irritation and inflammation that has been building in the bronchial tubes.
Bronchitis can occur in either an acute or a chronic form.
Viral infections attacking the respiratory tract and the bronchial tubes are the usual sources of acute bronchitis. These viruses can be easily passed on via the air when someone coughs in your vicinity.
Viral contamination can also be passed on via physical contact with a person who is infected with a virus. Being touched by their unwashed hands can be all it takes to become infected.
Less often, acute bronchitis can be caused by bacteria. Air pollution, dust, tobacco smoke and various types of fumes and vapors are other potential causes.
Usually, acute bronchitis will run its course within a matter of a few days to a few weeks. You can take steps to protect yourself from acute bronchitis by frequently washing your hands. During cold and flu season, you can try to avoid being in crowded spaces where infection can be easily transmitted.
Chronic bronchitis is a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Mucus production increases in the bronchial tubes due to ongoing issues of irritation and inflammation. Breathing becomes difficult and the hacking coughing becomes chronic.
The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is smoking tobacco. Viruses and bacteria can also play a role, because the afflicted bronchial tubes are vulnerable to picking up secondary infection.
Pneumonia is an example of a secondary bacterial infection that can pile upon chronic bronchitis.