Learn What Causes Bronchitis

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  • Aside from either a bacterial or viral infection, exposure to substances that can irritate your lungs, such as tobacco smoke, dust, fumes, vapor and polluted air, could lead to acute bronchitis
  • If you’ve experienced long-term and uncontrolled asthma, frequent childhood respiratory infections or gastric reflux that can impair your immune system, this could raise your risk for chronic bronchitis

There are multiple factors that come into play when it comes to bronchitis, whether it's because of ill health or environmental hazards. This then paves the way for the onset of either acute or chronic bronchitis. One way to differentiate these diseases from each other is to learn what causes them in the first place.

Causes of Acute Bronchitis

A patient with acute bronchitis typically acquires the disease because of a viral infection caused by either a cold or other viruses such as the:1

  • Influenza A and B virus
  • Rhinovirus
  • Adenovirus
  • Parainfluenza virus

In some cases, a bacterial infection can cause the disease. Examples of bacteria strains that can trigger acute bronchitis include:2

  • Mycoplasma pneumoniae
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Haemophilus influenzae
  • Moraxella catarrhalis
  • Bordetella pertussis

Aside from either a bacterial or viral infection, exposure to substances that can irritate your lungs, such as tobacco smoke, dust, fumes, vapor and polluted air, could lead to acute bronchitis.3 According to the Mayo Clinic, older adults, infants and young children are at higher risk of these infections.4

Causes of Chronic Bronchitis

On the other hand, chronic bronchitis can be caused by repeated irritation and damage of lung and airway tissue. A major culprit for this illness is smoking cigarettes or tobacco.5 Heavy exposure to industrial dust and fumes, polluted air, secondhand smoke and other pollutants (such as ammonia, sulfur dioxide, and chlorine6) is another main cause of chronic bronchitis.7

If you've experienced long-term and uncontrolled asthma, frequent childhood respiratory infections or gastric reflux8,9 that can impair your immune system, this could raise your risk for chronic bronchitis as well.10

Why Smoke Plays a Big Role in Either Type of Bronchitis

Smoking or constant exposure to cigarette or tobacco smoke is one of the highest risk factors for bronchitis, both acute and chronic. In fact, people who smoke, live with a smoker or are frequently exposed to high amounts of cigarette or tobacco smoke are known to have a higher risk for bronchitis.11

When you inhale smoke into your lungs, this leads to irritation and swelling in your airways (tubes in your lungs that serve as air passages) and production of thick mucus. Your airways are then blocked by this substance, making it difficult for the air to get into your lungs.12 This eventually leads to either difficulty in breathing, wheezing or continuous coughing — some of the major hallmarks of bronchitis.13

MORE ABOUT BRONCHITIS

Introduction: Bronchitis

What Is Bronchitis?

Is Bronchitis Contagious?

Types of Bronchitis

Bronchitis Causes

Bronchitis Symptoms

Bronchitis Treatment

Bronchitis in Children

Bronchitis During Pregnancy

Bronchitis Prevention

Bronchitis Diet

Bronchitis FAQ

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