Bronchitis is an acute inflammation of the air passages within the lungs. It occurs when the trachea (windpipe) and the large and small bronchi (airways) within the lungs become inflamed because of infection or irritation from other causes.
The thin mucous lining of these airways can become irritated and swollen.
The cells that make up this lining may leak fluids in response to the inflammation.
Coughing is a reflex that works to clear secretions from the lungs. Often the discomfort of a severe cough leads a person to seek medical treatment.
Both adults and children can get bronchitis. Symptoms are similar for both.
Infants usually get bronchiolitis, which involves the smaller airways and causes symptoms similar to asthma.
Asthmatic bronchitis occurs when asthma and bronchitis coexist. Asthma is a chronic inflammatory airway condition that leads to tightening of the muscles around the airways and swelling, both of which cause the airways to narrow. The combination of inflammation of the inner lining of the airways and mucus production can lead to severe wheezing and shortness of breath.
Picture of the lung, bronchi, and airways of the lung
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/3/2014
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