April 19, 2014
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Bronchitis

(Chronic Bronchitis)

The Facts on Bronchitis

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways between the windpipe and the lungs (bronchial tubes). The lining of these tubes produces large amounts of mucus, triggering a lingering cough. About 1 in 20 people in North America suffers from chronic bronchitis. Women are more at risk than men.

Feeling under the weather?

Could your symptoms be signs of the flu?

Answer a few quick yes-or-no questions to help get you on the road to diagnosis and recovery!


Do I have the flu?

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  • sudden onset of fever or
  • sudden onset of cough


  • fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  • sore throat
  • body or muscle aches
  • chills
  • headache
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • poor appetite
  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea


  • people 65 years old or over
  • children under 5 years old
  • pregnant women
  • people who are obese
  • people living in a long-term care facility or nursing home
  • people with any of the following medical conditions:
    • asthma
    • cancer
    • chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
    • diabetes
    • heart disease
    • kidney disease
    • weakened immune system (e.g., HIV/AIDS)


YES YES      NO NO

It's unlikely that you have the flu.

You may have the flu.

You probably have the flu.

But you do have at least 1 risk factor that puts you at risk of flu complications. If you do experience any flu symptoms, talk to your doctor or visit a walk-in clinic as soon as possible.

And you may also have at least 1 risk factor that put you at risk of flu complications.

Talk to your doctor or visit a walk-in clinic if your symptoms concern you or if they get worse.

Talk to your doctor or visit a walk-in clinic as soon as possible.

Enter your postal code to find a clinic near you:  

Know the flu basics and how you can protect yourself and your family.

NOTE: If your symptoms still concern you, speak to your doctor or go to a walk-in clinic as soon as possible.

Flu complications include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, or worsening of existing chronic conditions

If your doctor prescribes an antiviral medication, start the medication within 48 hours after your symptoms begin. Antivirals, when started within 48 hours after symptoms begin, can help relieve flu symptoms and make the flu less severe.

Home treatment options for the flu include getting plenty of rest, drinking lots of fluids, treating symptoms (such as using a pain reliever for body aches and fever), and avoiding contact with others.

Other treatment options for the flu include home treatments like getting plenty of rest, drinking lots of fluids, treating symptoms (such as using a pain reliever for body aches and fever), and avoiding contact with others.

Get the facts about the 2 main types of medications used to treat the flu and home treatments you can try.

If you experience any of these severe symptoms, seek medical help right away:

  • shortness of breath, rapid or difficulty breathing
  • chest pain
  • bluish or grey skin colour
  • bloody or coloured mucus/spit
  • severe or continuous vomiting
  • sudden dizziness or confusion
  • high fever that's lasted more than 3 days
  • low blood pressure
  • stiff neck, sensitivity to light
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Other resources about flu:


Causes of Bronchitis

There are two types of bronchitis:

Acute bronchitis comes on rapidly, usually after a virus has invaded the upper respiratory tract. Sometimes there is a bacterial infection as well. Viruses most likely to trigger acute bronchitis are those responsible for influenza (the flu) or the common cold. The germs that cause measles and whooping cough can also cause acute bronchitis. In these cases, it is called acute infectious bronchitis. The condition is called acute irritative bronchitis when it is caused by inhaling dust, fumes, or smoke.

Chronic bronchitis is defined as a mucus-producing cough that lasts for at least 3 months in 2 consecutive years. The most important cause by far is smoking. Exposure to some pollutants can also contribute to chronic bronchitis. A growing number of specialists believe that some kind of infection is a necessary final trigger of chronic bronchitis.

Typically, people with chronic bronchitis are smokers over 45 years of age. Certain jobs such as coal mining, welding, asbestos work, and grain handling also increase the risk of developing bronchitis.





Symptoms and Complications of Bronchitis

Persistent coughing accompanied by mucus or phlegm is the most obvious symptom of bronchitis. Lung congestion and wheezing are also common.

Acute bronchitis usually starts out as a dry cough, but within a few hours or days the cough starts to produce thick mucus. This phlegm typically has a yellowish or greenish colour. Wheezing after coughing is usual, and there might be some chest pain as well. Other symptoms are similar to that of a common cold, such as muscle aches, tiredness, and sore throat. A mild fever of about 38.5°C (101°F) may last about 4 days. A higher temperature, or a fever that isn't gone within a week, may suggest a bacterial infection such as pneumonia. It's important to see a doctor in this situation.

Chronic bronchitis features regular coughing and spitting up of large amounts of thick mucus. This mucus can partly block the airways, making breathing difficult. The condition is often dismissed as smoker's cough. The coughing is often ignored until the lungs have already been damaged, resulting in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This can lead to a chronic lack of oxygen. Signs such as blue lips and nail beds may be noticed. People with this condition tend to become sedentary. The mucus in the airways creates a good environment for viruses and bacteria to breed. This makes people with chronic bronchitis and COPD more prone to other infections such as pneumonia.

It's important to be aware that symptoms of chronic bronchitis can suddenly get worse. If your medication no longer seems to be effective, see your doctor immediately.

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Could your symptoms be COPD symptoms?

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