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Bronchitis means swelling in your air passages (bronchi). Bronchi are the air passages that connect your windpipe (trachea) with tiny air sacs (alveoli) in your lungs. The air sacs are where your body absorbs the oxygen you breathe in.
Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchi. This inflammation means the walls of your bronchi are swollen and filled with extra sticky mucus. Airflow into and out of your lungs is partly blocked because of the swelling and extra mucus in your bronchi. This makes you cough.

There are two kinds of bronchitis:

  • Acute bronchitis makes you sick for a while, but gets better after two to three weeks.
  • Chronic bronchitis doesn’t go away. With chronic bronchitis, you have a cough with mucus most days for three months of the year.

View our chronic cough page to learn about your cough. 
View our COPD page if you have been diagnosed with chronic bronchitis.

Acute Bronchitis

Acute bronchitis, swelling in your bronchi, is usually caused by viruses — the same viruses that give you the common cold.



If you have acute bronchitis, you probably feel the symptoms of a cold or flu (upper respiratory tract infection).



Most of the time, acute bronchitis goes away on its own, as long as you take good care of yourself.



The best way to prevent bronchitis it to stay away from cigarette smoke — don’t smoke, and don’t go near second-hand smoke.