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Chronic bronchitis
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed

Chronic bronchitis

Contributors: Abhijeet Waghray MD, Paritosh Prasad MD
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed


Chronic bronchitis is chronic inflammation and irritation of the lining of the bronchial airways, characterized by productive cough that lasts at least 3 months at a time during 2 consecutive years. Bronchial obstruction and restricted airflow are common; it is considered a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Chronic bronchitis is highly associated with tobacco smoking.

Characteristic symptoms are fatigue, wheezing, and cough with thickened mucus, particularly on awakening. Other signs and symptoms include exertional dyspnea, pleuritic chest pain, apnea, and rarely hemoptysis.

Management includes smoking cessation, pharmacotherapy, oxygen to treat hypoxemia, pulmonary rehabilitation, and lung surgery (lung volume reduction surgery or lung transplant).

Related topic: Acute bronchitis


J42 – Unspecified chronic bronchitis

63480004 – Chronic Bronchitis

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Last Reviewed:02/06/2018
Last Updated:02/18/2018
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Patient Information for Chronic bronchitis
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Contributors: Medical staff writer


Chronic bronchitis is the constant irritation and inflammation of the bronchial tubes. It is characterized as chronic if symptoms last more than 3 months at a time per year for 2 years in a row. Chronic bronchitis is considered a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Who’s At Risk

These factors increase your risk of developing chronic bronchitis:
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Compromised immune system
  • Consistent exposure to irritants such as chemical fumes
  • Gastric reflux

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms of chronic bronchitis include:
  • Fatigue
  • Productive cough
  • Wheezing

Self-Care Guidelines

To help alleviate symptoms avoid smoking and wear masks if you are in areas with pollutants. Use a humidifier to help relieve the cough. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) will help reduce the fever.

When to Seek Medical Care

Seek medical care if you:
  • Have a cough that lasts for more than 3 weeks
  • Have a high fever, over 100.4°F (38°C)
  • Have green, brown, or dark yellow mucus
  • Experience wheezing or shortness of breath


Your health care provider may recommend pulmonary rehabilitation. This is a breathing exercise conducted by a respiratory therapist with the goal of reducing the difficulties associated with breathing.

You may also receive suggestions for over-the-counter cough suppressants to help you sleep, and an inhaler, or certain medications to help relieve breathing difficulties.
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Chronic bronchitis
A medical illustration showing key findings of Chronic bronchitis : Fatigue, Productive cough, Wheezing
Copyright © 2023 VisualDx®. All rights reserved.