Bronchitis, Chronic

General Illness Information

Common Name:


Medical Term: None Specified


Chronic inflammation of bronchial tubes causing cough and purulent sputum production for at least three months of the year for more than two years. More commonly associated with and exacerbated by cigarette smoking.


Chronic Bronchitis can be caused by:

  • Smoking;
  • Air pollution.
  • Occupational – more common in women exposed to dusts or noxious gases.
  • Infection – repeated attacks of bronchitis.
  • Family and genetic factors, second-hand smoke.


Most important, don’t smoke. This is the most reversible risk. Avoid irritating fumes in the environment. Obtain prompt medical treatment for respiratory infections. Avoid exposure to second-hand smoke.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Chronic cough or coughing spasms.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Sputum that is thick and difficult to cough up. Sputum production varies according to whether infection is present.

Risk Factors

  • Smoking.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Cold, humid weather.
  • Poor nutrition.
  • Areas with high atmospheric pollution.
  • Recent illness that has lowered resistance.
  • Elderly and very young age groups.

Diagnosis & Treatment

General Measures:

  • Many other lung and heart disorders cause symptoms identical to those of chronic bronchitis. Medical tests will exclude these possibilities to make a diagnosis.
  • Treatment does not cure, but it can relieve symptoms and help prevent complications.
  • Stop smoking – this is the single most important treatment.
  • If you work or live in an area with heavy air pollution, do everything you can to avoid or reduce it. Consider changing jobs and installing air-conditioning with a filter and humidity control in your home.
  • Avoid sudden temperature changes or exposure to cold, wet weather.
    Practice bronchial drainage and deep-breathing techniques. Your physician will provide instructions.
  • Additional information is available from the American Lung Association, 1740 Broadway, New York, NY 10019, (800) 586-4872. In Canada, contact the Canadian Lung Association at 1-613-747-6776 or their website at


  • Frequent physician follow-ups.
  • Antibiotics to fight chronic or recurrent infection.
  • Expectorants to loosen secretions.
  • Bronchodilators to open bronchial tubes.
  • Drugs may be prescribed to treat severe depression or anxiety if they occur.
  • Cough suppressants may worsen your condition.


No restrictions. A regular exercise routine is important as prolonged inactivity leads to excessive disability.


No special diet. Increase fluid intake to 8 to 10 glasses a day to keep lung secretions thin.

Possible Complications :

  • Recurrent pneumonia.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which is incurable. It is characterized by chronic shortness of breath, purple lips and nails and eventual necessity for oxygen supplement.


  • Chronic bronchitis is usually controlled with treatment if you are a non-smoker and don’t have an underlying chronic disease, such as congestive heart failure, bronchiectasis or tuberculosis.
  • Chronic bronchitis usually reduces life expectancy if you smoke and don’t stop, or if you have an underlying chronic disease.

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