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Former President George H.W. Bush, 88, hospitalized with bronchitis

Former U.S. President George H. W. Bush stands during the national anthem at an NFL game in Houston on Nov. 4.
Former U.S. President George H. W. Bush stands during the national anthem at an NFL game in Houston on Nov. 4.Richard Carson / Reuters file

Former President George H.W. Bush has been hospitalized in Houston with bronchitis.

Bush, 88, has been suffering from a severe cough, and he’s been in and out of the hospital for the last couple of weeks. He was admitted out of "an abundance of caution" due to his age, a source close to the family told NBC News.

"President Bush has been in and out of The Methodist Hospital in the Texas Medical Center being treated for complications related to his bronchitis. He is in stable condition, and is expected to be released within the next 72 hours," Methodist Hospital said in a statement Thursday.

Bronchitis is a common condition in which the bronchial tubes in the lungs become inflamed and produce mucus, which creates the need to cough, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can turn serious in people with weak immune systems, including children and the elderly. Symptoms such as chest pain, weakness and coughing typically last two weeks, but can linger for as much as two months. 

The former president’s illness, though concerning, shouldn’t be life-threatening, said Dr. Zab Mosenifar, medical director of the Women’s Guild Lung Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Bronchitis in the elderly is “very, very common,” he said, but also very treatable. 

It’s possible the illness could progress to pneumonia, a frequent complication of bronchitis, which would require antibiotics and further treatment. 

“As far as I know, he doesn’t have history of smoking,” Mosenifar said. “He is a healthy person and he should do fine.” 

Bush served as the 41st president of the United States from 1989-1993, the capstone of a long career of public service. He lost his first bid for the Republican nomination for presidency in 1980, at which time Ronald Reagan chose him to be his running mate. He went on to serve two terms as Reagan’s vice president.

Bush had been a Texas Republican member of the House of Representatives in the 1960s and 1970s and head of the CIA from 1976-1977. The organization’s headquarters in Langley, Va., was later renamed the “George Bush Center for Intelligence.”

Before moving to Texas, where Bush made money in oil and petroleum, Bush served as a combat pilot during World War II and attended Yale University. He got married in 1945.

Bush and his wife, Barbara, had six children; one, Robin, died as a child, according to his official biography. His son George W. Bush became the 43rd president of the United States; another son, Jeb Bush, was governor of Florida for nearly a decade, and is considered a top contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Bush has had an active post-presidential life. He teamed up with Bill Clinton to raise money for the victims of the Asian tsunami in late 2004. That effort was so successful, the two former presidents did the same for Katrina victims in 2005. 

NBC News' JoNel Aleccia contributed to this report.

Leader of an American political dynasty, George Bush's influence was felt beyond his terms as president and vice president. Take a look back at his life and career.Robert Sullivan / AFP - Getty Images