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  Sloan Searcey   February 18, 2016   Health, Bronchitis, Cough 8 Comments

Bronchitis: A secondary infection

Velocity Care provides you with the basics of bronchitis

BronchitisRemember that cold you had last week, the one that had you miserably congested? The fever, chills and sore throat have passed, but as the week progresses, so does your cough.

Another week passes, and you can still feel that lingering congestion in your chest. The cough is relentless and is starting to hurt. Maybe that cold isn’t done with you yet, or maybe, it’s bronchitis.


What is bronchitis?

Bronchitis is a very common condition that occurs when the mucus membrane that lines your bronchial tubes becomes irritated and inflamed. The bronchial tubes are what carry air to and from your lungs. As the inflammation persists, the little airways to your lungs become restricted or blocked. A hacking cough often brings up mucus; it’s the body’s way of trying to clear up those passages and a way to tell if you have bronchitis.

Bronchitis can take on different forms:

  • Acute, which lasts for one to three weeks.
  • Chronic, which lasts for at least three months to two years.  
  • Asthmatic, which affects people who suffer from asthma.


Acute bronchitis can develop suddenly. Once an infection hits the bronchial tubes, your body tries to fight it off, which causes the passages to swell. It usually clears up on its own within three to 10 days. The cough, however, can continue for weeks. Typically it is a viral infection; sometimes bacteria can cause bronchitis, and then it is a sign of an underlying health problem.

Viruses cause 90 percent of acute bronchitis, so antibiotics are not effective. It’s typically considered a secondary infection, meaning a previous infection, like the cold or flu, caused it. Recurring acute bronchitis can weaken the bronchial tubes and turn into a chronic infection.


Chronic bronchitis is a progressive condition where the bronchial tubes don’t ever quite clear up or heal. Chronic bronchitis comes and goes, or doesn’t go away at all. It’s a long-term condition that is preventable and treatable, but not curable.

Smoking cigarettes is the most common cause of chronic bronchitis, but not the only cause.  Overexposure to certain irritants, like chemical fumes, vapors and dust, can also result in chronic bronchitis.

Everything you breath into your lungs gets filtered by tiny hair-like structures, called cilia, that line your airways. When the cilia are exposed continuously to harmful irritants, they don’t function correctly, or at all, increasing the risk of chronic bronchitis.

Other risk factors may include:

  • Living with a smoker.
  • Low resistance or pre-existing conditions that weaken your immune system.
  • Gastric reflux or repeated, severe heartburn.

Symptoms of bronchitis

It’s hard to tell the difference between cold and bronchitis symptoms, and usually only time will tell. However, if that nagging cough lasts longer than a couple of weeks and is producing thick, discolored phlegm, then it may not be that pesky cold anymore. Chest discomfort, shortness of breath, fatigue and a slight fever are also indications of a bronchial infection.

Caring for bronchitis

In healthy people with normal lungs and no chronic health issues, caring for bronchitis is as easy as getting plenty of rest, fluids and avoiding irritating fumes. Do all the things you would normally do for a cold:

  • Take acetaminophen for the chest discomfort.
  • Use cough syrup or other cough suppressant, but only if you’re unable to sleep.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Drink hot tea with lemon and honey to relax and ease the throat.
  • Try steam – whether with a towel over your head or sitting in the bathroom, creating a steam shower.

Severe cases of acute and chronic bronchitis can lead to pneumonia or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Visit your nearest Velocity Care Urgent Treatment Center if your symptoms persist longer than three weeks, prevent you from sleeping or if you continue to cough up yellow or green phlegm. Our walk-in urgent care clinics are dedicated to helping you feel better.

Caring for strep throat

Photo credit: 123RF Stock Photo

Medical disclaimer

This site offers medical, health, fitness and nutritional information and is designed for educational purposes only. General information found on this website is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your health care professional.

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