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Asthma

Can an asthma attack cause bronchitis?

01/12/2009

Question:

I have a question about asthma and bronchitis. I have had asthma all my life, usually well controlled. During the winter I get several bouts of acute bronchitis every year. I never get head colds, just chest colds. Usually my dr asks me if I had a cold first before I got bronchitis, and I never do. I have an asthma attack and have to use my rescue inhaler for a day or 2. Then the asthma eases up and I just wind up with a chest cold (bronchitis) that lasts maybe 2-3 weeks.

I get this 3 or 4 times during the winter, usually when there is cold weather.

Can asthma cause acute bronchitis or is it the other way around, that the bronchitis is causing the asthma? And how come I never get head colds, its always all in my chest?

Answer:

It is common for people with asthma to have an asthma exacerbation in the winter triggered by a viral illness, which can be "bronchitis". There is no data to suggest that people with asthma are at increased risk for "bronchitis" then the general population. Some people with asthma who have frequent asthma exacerbations with viral illnesses during the winter may require an increase in their controller medications during this time to help decrease either the number of exacerbations or their severity. They can often decrease these medications once they are out of their bad winter season. You might consider discussing this option with your asthma care provider. Otherwise be certain to get a yearly flu shot, avoid people with the flu and wash your hands after any contact with people who are sick as all of these measures will lessen your risk of catching a viral illness.

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Response by:

John G Mastronarde, MD John G Mastronarde, MD
Clinical Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University