Acute bronchitis is a common lower respiratory tract infection that may present similarly to the common cold. Because of these similarities, many people mistake acute bronchitis for a chest cold. The condition occurs when the bronchi — the airways to the lungs — become inflamed. Acute infection may last one to six weeks, though chronic infection is possible. In many instances, an upper respiratory tract infection such as the common cold may precede acute bronchitis.
Bronchitis can be associated with a productive cough, though this symptom is often not present. Almost 90% of acute bronchitis cases develop due to viral infections. Mucus color is not a reliable method of differentiating viral from bacterial infection.
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