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Asthmatic Bronchitis: When Asthma Leads to Infection

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Vincent Sales · Updated Feb 11, 2023

Asthmatic Bronchitis: When Asthma Leads to Infection

Those who suffer from asthma must often be cautious about other respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia or bronchitis. Having asthma increases the risk of getting these infections, and at times, they can lead to serious illness. Reducing the risk of asthmatic bronchitis and other illnesses, plus learning how to treat the condition, is an important part of living with asthma.

Asthma and Bronchitis

Asthma and bronchitis are two respiratory illnesses that are linked.

Bronchitis is an infection of the bronchi — the main airways of the lungs — leading to inflammation. This condition can occur when the infection irritates the airways, causing the airways to produce mucus in an attempt to trap the irritant.

Asthma, on the other hand, is a strong reaction of the immune system to a substance such as an allergen. This reaction leads to inflammation, thickening and narrowing of the airways in the lungs. As a result, during attacks, asthma sufferers have difficulty breathing. 

Asthmatic bronchitis is simply asthma that leads to bronchitis. Having asthma puts individuals at an increased risk of developing bronchitis. Irritants in the airways (such as bacteria or viruses) get trapped in the lungs and over time, may lead to tissue damage.

It is important to note that asthmatic bronchitis is not limited to those with asthma. It can also be the result of bronchitis caused by smoking. In such cases “asthmatic” is a nonspecific term for a wide variety of symptoms that, like asthma, involve difficulty breathing from a specific allergen or trigger. It can be difficult to differentiate between those who have chronic bronchitis and asthma.

Symptoms of Asthmatic Bronchitis

Symptoms of asthmatic bronchitis can vary among individuals. Some symptoms occur daily or just once in a while. A few of the more common symptoms include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Dry, nonproductive cough
  • Wet, productive cough when there is an infection
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing

Sometimes, symptoms of asthmatic bronchitis can also be severe. In case of severe symptoms, seek medical help immediately. Some symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Bluish lips or fingernails
  • Unresponsiveness or passing out
  • Extreme breathing problems, such as difficulty breathing, fast and labored breathing, not breathing, or choking

Asthmatic Bronchitis Treatment

Asthmatic bronchitis can be treated through medications and lifestyle changes.

Some of these treatments include:

  • Bronchodilators such as salbutamol, salmeterol, or formoterol
  • These drugs open up or relax the bronchioles, the muscles of the airways, helping an individual to breathe.

    • Steroids such as beclomethasone, budesonide and fluticasone

    Corticosteroids are used to treat asthmatic bronchitis to reduce swelling in the airways. These steroids can provide immediate relief of acute symptoms.

    • Guaifenesin

    Excess mucus production can make it difficult to breathe when you have bronchitis. Your doctor may prescribe guaifenesin to thin or loosen excess mucus secretions.

    Excess mucus is a complication of asthmatic bronchitis and can increase breathing difficulties.

    It is important to keep mucous secretions thin by staying hydrated.

    • Lifestyle Changes

    Drinking water can help to relieve many bronchitis symptoms. Using a cool mist humidifier can also make it easier to clear mucus, as well as thin secretions in the lungs.

    Smoking, including exposure to secondhand smoke, increases your risk of bronchitis and damages your airways, so it must be avoided. The same is true for air pollution.

    Key Takeaway

    Asthmatic bronchitis is a respiratory illness that happens when asthma leads to bronchitis. This can cause inflammation of the airways and mucus production which, in turn, leads to coughing and difficulty breathing. A variety of medications can help you to breathe, or to manage the mucus and the cough. Lifestyle changes can also help in treatment as well as prevention.

    Learn more about Respiratory Health here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


    Written by Vincent Sales · Updated Feb 11, 2023

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