Bronchitis: Risk Factors and Complications

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Bronchitis is a condition that results due to the inflammation of the bronchi that carry air to and away from the lungs. As a result, the bronchial tubes will swell and discharge mucus, irritating your airways and making you cough, repeatedly.

The two types of bronchitis include:

  • Acute bronchitis: this can be recognized through a dry cough that later brings up a clear or yellow mucus. The condition lasts for only 2 to 4 weeks and many healthy individuals recover from the symptoms of acute bronchitis without facing any major difficulties.
  • Chronic bronchitis: this condition involves recurrent periods of productive cough that may last for a very long time. This is a very severe condition that usually occurs in people who smoke. One of the major signs of chronic bronchitis includes smoking for 3 months for 2 successive years.

Both children and adults are susceptible to acute bronchitis.

Risk factors

The contributing factors that may make you more prone to suffering from bronchitis include:

  • Smoking cigarettes: people who inhale cigarette smoke (this includes both smoker and passive smoker) are at greater risk of suffering from chronic bronchitis
  • Environmental irritants: this means polluted air and a workplace that may accommodate air rich in chemicals and pollutants that may contribute to bronchitis. This includes people working in large factories such as grain and textile industries
  • Low resistance: this is often caused due to other illnesses such as viral infections or cold or a chronic condition that suppresses the immune system. Infants, young children and older adults are more susceptible to the infection.


In many people transient episodes of bronchitis are not a cause of concern; however, people must be vigilant and careful in case they suffer from pneumonia. Recurrent periods of bronchitis may give you a red flag indicating:

  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Tubercolosis
  • Asthma
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Sinusitis

To learn about recognizing and managing other respiratory issues and emergencies enrol in workplace approved first aid training.

How to prepare for your appointment with your doctor

Many patients start by visiting their family doctor. However, if you are suffering from chronic bronchitis, you are more likely to consult a pulmonologist—a doctor that specialized in lung disorders.

Before you meet your doctor, it is advisable to write the answers to the following questions in a journal as you will have to recall such incidences during your meeting:

  • Have you ever suffered from pneumonia?
  • Did you recently incur a viral infection, a cold or flu?
  • Do you have a history of other medical conditions?
  • Are you currently suffering from any other medical condition?
  • What supplements, medication or drugs do you take on a regular basis?
  • Is your workplace or home exposing you to any harmful irritants?
  • Are you a smoker?
  • Do you live or work with someone who smokes? Risk Factors and Complications

The best idea is to bring your family member or close friend along with you to accompany you during your appointment. This will be helpful as sometimes it is difficult to remember every piece of information that is being asked for, additionally, your companion will help point out anything you might have forgotten while providing important information to your doctor.

Let your doctor know about the tests that were carried out by your previous doctor, if you have visited a different physician before. It is better if you bring all reports and X-ray results, pulmonary function tests and sputum culture with you.

Your doctor will most probably ask the following questions during your appointment—so be prepared to answer every question and accurately as possible:

  • When did the symptoms start to occur?
  • Are the symptoms recurrent or occasional?
  • Do the condition or its symptoms affect your daily performance?
  • Does it interrupt your sleep?
  • How much of your endurance/stamina has declined from the previous year?
  • Do you exercise? Do you feel lethargic after climbing a flight of stairs or do you feel any difficulty while doing so? Can you walk/run as fast as you did last year?
  • Are you a smoker? If you are, how much, since when and for how long have you been smoking?
  • Is there anything that may worsen or improve the symptoms you are suffering from?
  • Does cold air cause you any discomfort or bother you?
  • Have you taken a pneumonia vaccination? If so, when?
  • Have you taken your annual flu shot?

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