Bronchitis CAN be fatal.
According to the Centers for Disease Control bronchitis accounted for 639 deaths in the US in 2009. ["FASTSTATS - Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]
Acute bronchitis, which usually only lasts for seven to ten days, is usually not a cause for concern. Most people recover completely and are able to return to their normal activities. However, if bronchitis becomes chronic or if complications arise, it can potentially be fatal.
What Is Bronchitis?
The bronchi are the passages that carry air to the lungs. Bronchitis is a condition that occurs when these passages become inflamed. This condition usually occurs as the result of a viral infection. Young children, people with heart or lung problems, and the elderly are at the greatest risk for developing bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis, which is more serious, is usually a result of smoking.
Complications Associated with Bronchitis
Pneumonia is a possible complication of either acute or chronic bronchitis. Pneumonia carries its own complications, some of which are serious including a condition known as empyema where fluid collects around the lungs and may become infected. Pneumonia can also cause a lung abscess or acute respiratory distress syndrome. Pneumonia is the leading cause of death in children worldwide. ["Pneumonia Fact Sheet." World Health Organization]
Emphysema is a condition that destroys the air sacs in the lungs and is a possible complication of chronic bronchitis. It is estimated that over 100,000 people die from emphysema each year. ["Emphysema." Breathe California]
Pulmonary hypertension is another term for high blood pressure in the arteries that lead to the lungs. It is a possible complication of chronic bronchitis. Most patients with pulmonary hypertension have a reduced quality of life. ["Pulmonary hypertension - PubMed Health." National Center for Biotechnology Information]