Chronic Bronchitis

People with chronic bronchitis have a daily mucus-producing cough that persists for at least 3 months a year at least 2 years in a row. Chronic bronchitis is a serious lung disease that requires ongoing medical care and can lead to gradual deterioration of the lungs. Chronic bronchitis is a form of a serious health condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways. It can be triggered by upper or lower airway infections, exposure to environmental irritants such as dust or air pollution. Smoking is the major cause of chronic bronchitis.

Symptoms include:

  • Mucus-producing cough
  • Recurring morning cough
  • Post nasal drip or sinus congestion
  • Bad breath
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath

A sudden worsening of chronic bronchitis is called an exacerbation. Symptoms of an exacerbation include coughing up more mucus or mucus that is a different color than usual, as well as increased shortness of breath. Viral infections are the most common trigger of an exacerbation.

Risk factors include:

  • Cigarette smoking causes approximately 80%-90% of COPD cases.
  • Children of heavy smokers
  • Exposure to environmental pollutants, it is more common in urban areas that have heavy air pollution.
  • Frequent respiratory illnesses and infections
  • Alpha 1-antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency

How is it diagnosed?

  • Your medical provider will take a thorough medical history and listen to your lungs for wheezing or rales.
  • You may need a chest x-ray to rule out pneumonia or other diseases
  • Lung function studies can also be used


  • The best way to keep from getting chronic bronchitis and other lung problems is not to smoke.
  • Avoid inhaled irritants, such as air pollution or workplace dust or fumes

Work with your board-certified allergist to determine the cause of your symptoms so you live more comfortably. Call 208-377-4000 to schedule an appointment today.