Early bronchitis symptoms are typically indistinguishable from those of the common cold. The appearance of a cough and its progressive worsening are the first indications of the development of bronchitis.
The bronchitis cough may begin as a dry one then progressively evolve to include increasing amounts of mucus. Mucus coughed up in the sputum typically begins as white in color then proceeds to green/yellow.
The bronchi are the two large airways that branch left and right off of the trachea in the chest. When the bronchi become irritated and inflamed, or infected, then bronchitis can result.
Infectious bronchitis is predominately caused by viral infections during the winter months. Bacterial bronchitis occurs less frequently. Although an initial infection may subside, ongoing irritation of the bronchi typically extend the duration of the symptomatic cough.
Pollution and environmental factors can lead to irritation of the bronchi, and irritative bronchitis. Chemical fumes, gases, dusts or particulate matter, allergens are all able to cause inflammation and the characteristic cough of bronchitis.
Bronchitis can be classified as acute (if duration is less than 3 months) or chronic if it is longer term.
- sore throat
- runny nose
- aching muscles
- dry cough progressing to cough with mucus
- shortness of breath
Diagnosis is typically through examination and observation of the characteristic symptoms (including analysis of the cough sputum), as well as the absence of confirmation of the presence of pneumonia. A chest x-ray can typically be used to rule out pneumonia.
Treatment is typically to suppress a dry, painful cough. Expectorants can be administered to aid in the clearing of sputum. Proper rest and rehydration methods are required. Humidifiers may be recommended to ease breathing. Bacterial bronchitis may be treated with antibiotics.