Bronchitis - Description

Acute and chronic bronchitis are both inflammations of the air passages. However, their causes and treatments are different. Acute bronchitis occurs most frequently during the winter. It often follows a viral infection, such as a cold (see common cold entry) or the flu (see influenza entry), and may accompany a bacterial infection.

A person who has acute bronchitis is usually better within two weeks. The cough that accompanies the disease may last longer, however. As with similar infections of the airways, pneumonia (see pneumonia entry) may also develop.

Anyone can get acute bronchitis. However, people with weak immune systems, such as infants and the elderly, are more prone to the disease. Smokers and people with heart or lung disease are also at higher risk for acute bronchitis, as are people who are exposed to chemical fumes or high levels of air pollution.

Chronic bronchitis is a major cause of disability and death. The American Lung Association estimates that about fourteen million Americans suffer from the disease. Like acute bronchitis, chronic bronchitis is accompanied by severe coughing and spitting up of phlegm (pronounced FLEM). Chronic bronchitis is characterized by the presence of these symptoms for a period of at least three months in each of two consecutive years. Chronic bronchitis develops slowly. As a result, the disease is seen more often among older people than among the young and middle-aged.

The larger air tubes of the lung that bring air in from the trachea.
Fine, hair-like projections that line the trachea and bronchi. Cilia wave back and forth, carrying mucus through the airways.
A serious and usually fatal disease of the lungs.
The windpipe, a tube that brings air from the back of the throat to the bronchi.

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