Chronic lung infection can cause dangerous pneumonia
Bronchitis is an infection of the lungs — which can cause them to become inflamed and can produce a cough which lasts for months.
Developing a cough, usually after a cold or a bout of flu is fairly common, but some people don't realize they could be suffering with bronchitis, express.co.uk wrote.
GPs will usually classify bronchitis — which can be caused by a virus or bacteria — as acute or chronic.
Acute bronchitisis likely to be developed following a bout of flu or even the common cold. However — this is usually short lived, lasting up to three weeks.
Most cases of acute bronchitis can be easily treated at home with rest, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and plenty of fluids.
However, chronic bronchitis can last for up to three months of the year and often returns the following year, which can be distressing and uncomfortable for sufferers.
The condition is one of a number of lung conditions which are known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) — which also includes emphysema, a disease also which can be caused by smoking.
Symptoms of COPD include breathlessness, a persistent chesty cough, chest infections and wheezing.
Most cases of bronchitis develop when an infection irritates bronchi — the airways in the lungs — causing them to produce more mucus than usual.
Researchers said: “The main symptom of acute bronchitis is a hacking cough, which may bring up clear, yellow-grey or greenish mucus (phlegm)."
The infection causes the body to produce more mucus, and coughing is a way of attempting to remove excess mucus produced by the body.
Other symptoms are similar to those of the common cold or sinusitis, and may include sore throat, headache, runny or blocked nose, aches, pains and tiredness.
In some cases, other illnesses can exacerbate symptoms of bronchitis.
Public Health England warned: “Flu can be particularly dangerous for those with long-term health conditions, like respiratory disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis or emphysema, diabetes; heart, kidney or liver disease.”
The organization revealed there are one million cases of COPD in England, which causes 24,000 deaths in England every year.
Medics warn smoking is the main cause of chronic bronchitis, and it can affect people who inhale second-hand smoke, as well as those who smoke themselves.
People with chronic bronchitis often develop another smoking-related lung disease called emphysema — where the air sacs inside the lungs become damaged, causing shortness of breath.
In addition, cold can also affect the respiratory system, which reduces the lung's ability to fight off infection explaining why lower temperatures are linked with bronchitis and pneumonia.
The National Health Service (NHS) has warned: “Colder weather is not only associated with an increase in deaths but also has a significant impact on the number of people becoming ill, increasing the winter pressures felt by the health care services.”