According to public health website Kids Health, bronchitis is a condition in which the mucous membrane lining the bronchial tubes becomes inflamed. The bronchial tubes are a network of airways which move air from the trachea into the lungs, and the mucous membrane lining protects the airways from potential pathogens. The duration of bronchitis, depends on many factors, specifically whether it is acute or chronic. Acute bronchitis occurs occasionally, and its duration may last a few weeks. Chronic bronchitis is a persistent condition and can last much longer. While asthma does make chronic bronchitis more likely, not all asthmatic patients who have bronchitis will have chronic bronchitis.
Health Scout, a web-based health encyclopedia, reports that common symptoms of bronchitis include a productive cough (a cough that moves mucous), wheezing and shortness of breath. These symptoms are generally present whether bronchitis is acute or chronic. Bronchitis with symptoms occurring over a long period of time (potentially several months to several years), however, generally indicate chronic asthmatic bronchitis. The presence of persistent and recurring illnesses occurring in that same time period, such as pneumonia, may also indicate chronic bronchitis.
According to AARP, people with asthma may find the condition worsened by common colds, sinus infections or respiratory flu infections. These conditions can lead to the development of bronchitis in asthmatics, and due to complications of asthma, bronchitis can potentially last weeks longer than it will in a person who does not have asthma. This is due to the tendency of the lungs and airways to become constricted and agitated in response to pathogens. Potential pathogens can be germs or allergens. If asthma symptoms are worsened by colds, flu viruses or sinus infections, see a doctor or other health practitioner immediately. Bronchitis in asthmatic persons can be prevented by early treatment of agitating illnesses.
While expectorants like guaifenesin and dextromorphan hydrobromide are helpful in dealing with bronchitis for persons who do not have asthma, check with a physician for cases of bronchitis in asthmatics. These medications may still be helpful, however, there may be a prescribed medication that is effective that might contraindicate other over-the-counter medications. Check with a physician to ensure that the most potent medication is administered, and that its effectiveness is not blocked by complications from other medications.
Kids Health indicates that when patients with asthma are frequently subjected to other illnesses that aggravate their asthma on a regular basis, chronic bronchitis can occur. Patients with asthma should take care during cold and flu season, especially. Wash hands frequently with hot soapy water; spray communal surfaces like doorknobs, phones, or even computer keyboards regularly with disinfectant; and support the immune system with vitamin C. Also, steer clear of all avoidable allergens and make sure to take any prescribed allergy medications. These measures can prevent the illnesses that could worsen asthma conditions. However, the leading cause of chronic bronchitis is smoking, or consistent exposure to second-hand smoke. Particularly if a person has asthma, they should avoid smoking to prevent the potential onset of chronic bronchitis or worse conditions such as emphysema.
If a person with asthma also suffers from a compromised immune system, additional care may need to be taken, particularly during cold and flu season when it is easier to get sick. Consult with a health care practitioner to see what can be done to prevent the onset of bronchitis, and the potential worsening of that condition. AARP lists a variety of asthma medications that can keep asthma symptoms under control, see the "Resources" section for further reading, and consult with a physician for the right medicine or combination of medicines for a specific patient.