Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"What causes bronchitis?"
I'm a middle-aged guy with a history of lung problems. Almost every winter, I get bronchitis, and this year is no exception. What can I do to prevent this in the future? It's starting to feel inevitable, and it can't be good to take antibiotics so often.
As you know, bronchitis is an infection or inflammatory reaction in the bronchioles (tubes that carry the air to the lung). Bronchitis can have many causes but the vast majority of them are viral. Since symptoms of pneumonia can often be confused with symptoms of bronchitis, it is always necessary for you to schedule and appointment with your doctor soon after you start feeling sick. In the United States, the most common cause of bronchitis is smoking. So if you do smoke or spend anytime around someone that does, then you need to make that change first. You should also make sure that you and everyone that lives with you gets the flu shot this year. Bronchitis is most often caused by the same types of viruses that cause the common cold, and thus you should avoid anyone who has cold like symptoms. Bacterial bronchitis accounts for a very small percentage of cases. For this reason, antibiotics are no longer routinely prescribed for bronchitis and you are probably not being helped by them. The best physician to ask this question to is your primary care physician. He or she will know what the next best step is in the context of your past medical history. Good luck.
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