Medical Q&As

Chronic bronchitis

I have taken many courses of antibiotics for chronic bronchitis. Already this year, I have taken 6 or 7 but now find that when I get a chest infection it takes a long time to clear up. Is there anything I can do?

The most significant piece of information that you have left out is your smoking history. The pattern you have described is one that I would immediately recognise in people who have smoked for many years. There is a definite association between cigarette smoking and chronic bronchitis. Smoking affects the lining of the bronchi, or breathing tubes resulting in a loss of the cilia that line the tube. Cilia are like tiny hairs that project into the lumen of the bronchi. They act like the hairs that line the nostrils, which provide a filtration barrier. The other significant effect of cigarette smoke is that it irritates the lining of the bronchi thereby producing mucous which results in a productive cough. The most useful thing to do in a situation such as you describe would be to stop smoking and also to ensure that you are vaccinated against the flu when the vaccine becomes available this autumn.