Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"What is bronchitis?"
I have had a really bad cough, and I've been coughing up greenish junk, which I read is a big time symptom of bronchitis. If I do have bronchitis, what does that mean? How will it affect my health in the future, and what is the best way to treat it right now? Should I see a doctor?
Bronchitis refers to the inflammation of the airways known as the bronchi, which are the main branches of the trachea that lead into the lungs. In over 90 percent of the cases, acute bronchitis is caused by a virus. These viruses include those often responsible for the common cold, such as coronaviruses and rhinoviruses, and can also include the influenza virus. As the viruses invade the lining of the airways, they become inflamed and mucous production is increased. Due to irritation of the airways from the increased amount of mucous, the cough reflex is initiated as the body's attempt to expel the excess secretions. Inflammatory cells that help fight off the infection often contribute to the green color of the sputum. The cough is often associated with other symptoms of an upper respiratory infection, including sore throat, headache, fever, and congestion. As the vast majority of bronchitis is caused by viruses, antibiotics are not typically indicated. The usual treatment consists of symptomatic measures, such as decongestants (both oral and nasal), lozenges for sore throat, and anti-inflammatory medications for headache and fever. Typically the illness will quickly improve on its own in 1-2 weeks, with no residual effects on your health. If symptoms persist or the severity of symptoms takes a turn for the worse, then a visit to your primary care doctor may be indicated.
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