The most common symptoms of bronchitis include fatigue, a cough that produces thick discolored mucus, shortness of breath, chest discomfort, slight fever and chills, according to Mayo Clinic. Acute bronchitis causes symptoms for up to several weeks, while chronic bronchitis causes symptoms for over three months.
Acute bronchitis generally develops from a cold or flu, explains Mayo Clinic. It usually improves within a few days without long-term effects, although coughing can persist. Chronic bronchitis is a state of constant inflammation or irritation of the airways, which is most commonly caused by smoking. Exposure over time to irritants such as the dust from grains or textiles, or from chemical fumes, can also cause bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis or recurring bronchitis requires medical attention and may be an indicator of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Acute bronchitis is generally caused by viruses, notes Mayo Clinic. These viruses do not respond to antibiotics and generally are removed over time by the immune system without medical help. Antibiotics are used when a doctor suspects a bacterial infection is causing bronchitis. Cough medicine can be used if symptoms are interfering with sleep but should generally be avoided because coughing removes irritants. Other medications such as inhalers may be prescribed if the bronchitis is accompanied by allergies or asthma.