Bronchitis Causes

Chronic bronchitis occurs when the bronchial tubes become irritated and inflamed, resulting in a chronic cough and other bronchitis symptoms. The inflammation and resulting mucus production damage the cilia, the fine hairs responsible for moving material out of the airways. As the cilia are damaged and lose their ability to function, mucus plugs the airways, obstructing breathing.

Cigarettes and Smoking: The Primary Cause of Chronic Bronchitis Symptoms

Cigarette smoking is the primary cause of chronic bronchitis symptoms.Smoking cigarettes is the primary cause of chronic bronchitis symptoms. Long-term use of cigarettes (or exposure to second-hand cigarette smoke) irritates the bronchial tubes and damages the sensitive cilia. It may take many years for cigarettes to do this damage; chronic bronchitis is usually diagnosed in smokers after the age of forty.

Cigarettes and smoking are often associated with a chronic cough. This chronic cough is often a symptom of bronchitis. This “smoker’s cough” is a clear sign that cigarettes are irritating the airways.

Many smokers dismiss a chronic cough as a natural consequence of smoking cigarettes, and act as if there is nothing to be done about it. Ignoring chronic bronchitis symptoms only makes them worse over time. Quitting cigarettes, while a difficult goal to achieve, reduces the severity of bronchitis symptoms, including the wet chronic cough.

Other Irritants

Although cigarettes cause chronic bronchitis in most cases, other irritants may also be responsible for bronchitis symptoms. Possible causes include:

  • bacterial infections and microorganisms
  • chemical fumes
  • dust
  • environmental pollution.

Asthmatic Bronchitis and Bronchitis Symptoms

Asthma may be the cause of apparent chronic bronchitis symptoms in children and teenagers. Severe chronic asthma can cause permanent airway obstruction, resulting in a health condition known as asthmatic bronchitis. Asthmatic bronchitis has many of the same symptoms as chronic bronchitis. 

Chronic Bronchitis Risk Factors

  • smoking cigarettes
  • over forty years old
  • exposure to occupational hazards
  • recurring lung infections.


National Library of Medicine. (2002, May 7). Bronchitis. Retrieved November 23, 2003, from