Bronchitis is an infection of the bronchial tubes that carry air from the throat to the lungs. When infected, these tubes become inflamed, making it difficult to breath, and produce mucus, which causes coughing. Other symptoms may include a slight fever, sore throat, muscle pain when breathing, and wheezing. It is even possible, during acute bronchitis, to cough so hard that the explosive vacuum created in the lungs can crack or otherwise hurt the ribs, which makes further coughing even more painful. There are two forms: chronic and acute.
Acute bronchitis is often the result of a cold or flu. This illness is most often caused by a virus, rather than bacteria, so taking antibiotics will not help to cure it; it will usually go away on its own. The best treatment is bed rest and fluids. Because bronchitis causes the buildup of mucus, an expectorant cough syrup can help thin down the mucus and make it easier to cough up. Drinking fluids will also help with this, as well as replace the fluids a patient loses to the infection. People who have this infection should see a healthcare professional if they are still having symptoms after two weeks, because they may have another respiratory problem.
The best way to avoid acute bronchitis is the same way a person would try to avoid a cold. People should wash their hands often, disinfect as necessary during cold season, and avoid crowded or confined spaces if there's something "going around."
Chronic bronchitis is a condition most often seen in smokers. This is a more permanent inflammation of the bronchial tubes caused by the irritation of cigarette smoke. The chronic condition is like an on-going, less severe case of acute bronchitis. The bronchial tubes are always slightly inflamed, mucus is always being produced, and the result is the "smoker's hack." The best cure for this illness is to stop smoking, but if that is too difficult, just cutting down can reduce the stress on the bronchial tubes and allow them to recover somewhat.