Chronic bronchitis (patient information)
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Chronic bronchitis On the Web
What are the symptoms of Chronic bronchitis?
The symptoms of either type of bronchitis may include:
- Chest discomfort
- Cough that produces mucus; if it's yellow-green, you are more likely to have a bacterial infection
- Fever -- usually low
- Shortness of breath worsened by exertion or mild activity
- Ankle, feet, and leg swelling
- Blue-colored lips from low levels of oxygen
- Frequent respiratory infections (such as colds or the flu)
What causes Chronic bronchitis?
Chronic bronchitis is a long-term condition. People have a cough that produces excessive mucus. To be diagnosed with chronic bronchitis, you must have a cough with mucus most days of the month for at least 3 months. Chronic bronchitis is one type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD for short. (Emphysema is another type of COPD.) The following things can make bronchitis worse:
- Air pollution
- Certain occupations (such as coal mining, textile manufacturing, or grain handling)
Who is at highest risk?
People at risk for acute bronchitis include:
- The elderly, infants, and young children
- Persons with heart or lung disease
When to seek urgent medical care?
Call your doctor if:
- You have a cough most days or you have a cough that returns frequently
- You are coughing up blood
- You have a high fever or shaking chills
- You have a low-grade fever for 3 or more days
- You have thick, greenish mucus, especially if it has a bad smell
- You feel short of breath or have chest pain
- You have an underlying chronic illness, like heart or lung disease
Tests may include:
- Chest x-ray
- Lung function tests provide information that is useful for diagnosis and your outlook.
- Pulse oximetry helps determine the amount of oxygen in your blood. This quick and painless test uses a device that is placed onto the end of your finger. Arterial blood gas is a more exact measurement of oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, but it requires a needle stick and is more painful.
- Sputum samples may be taken to check for signs of inflammation or bacterial infection.
- Do not smoke
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Take aspirin or acetaminophen (Tylenol) if you have a fever. DO NOT give aspirin to children
- Use a humidifier or steam in the bathroom
If your symptoms do not improve, your doctor may prescribe an inhaler to open your airways if you are wheezing. If your doctor thinks that you have a secondary bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed. Most of the time, antibiotics are not needed or recommended.
Where to find medical care for Chronic bronchitis?
What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?
- DO NOT smoke.
- Get a yearly flu vaccine and a pneumococcal vaccine as directed by your doctor.
- Reduce your exposure to air pollution.
- Wash your hands (and your children's hands) frequently to avoid spreading viruses and other infections.