Bronchitis is an infection or irritation of the wall of your bronchial tubes, (windpipe), which carry air to and from your lungs. People who have bronchitis often cough up thickened mucus, which can be discoloured, and this can happen for a short or long duration.
Often developing from a cold or other throat and lung infection, short-term bronchitis is very common. Long-term bronchitis, a more serious condition, is a constant irritation of the lining of the windpipe, often due to smoking.
Short-term bronchitis, also called a chest cold, usually improves within a week to 10 days without lasting effects, although a cough may remain for weeks.
However, if you have repeated episodes of bronchitis, you may have long-term bronchitis, which requires medical attention.
Long-term bronchitis is one of the conditions included in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Causes Of bronchitis
Acute bronchitis is usually caused by viruses or bacteria, typically the same viruses that cause colds and flu (influenza).
Antibiotics may kill bacteria but not viruses, so this type of medication isn’t useful in viral bronchitis.
The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is cigarette smoking. Air pollution and dust or toxic gases in the environment or workplace also can contribute to the condition.
Who Is Likely To Have Bronchitis?
Your risk of bronchitis increases if you belong to any of the following groups:
- Cigarette smoking. People who smoke or second-hand smokers are at higher risk of both types of bronchitis.
- Low resistance or immunity. This may result from another acute illness, such as a cold, or from a chronic condition that compromises your immune system. Older adults, infants and young children have greater vulnerability to infection.
- Exposure to irritants on the job. Your risk of developing bronchitis is greater if you work around certain lung irritants, such as grains or textiles, or are exposed to chemical fumes or dust.
- Gastric reflux. Repeated episodes of severe heartburn can irritate your throat and make you more prone to developing windpipe irritation.
What Are The Symptoms Of Bronchitis?
For either short- or long-term bronchitis, signs and symptoms may include:
- A cough
- Production of tenacious sputum, which can be clear, white, yellowish-grey or green in colour — rarely, it may be streaked with blood
- Shortness of breath
- Slight fever and chills
- Chest discomfort
If you have short-term bronchitis, you might have cold symptoms, such as a mild headache or body aches. While these symptoms usually improve in about a week, you may have a nagging cough that remains for several weeks.
Long-term bronchitisis defined as a productive cough that lasts at least three months, with recurring episodes occurring for at least two consecutive years.
If you have long-term bronchitis, you’re likely to have periods when your cough or other symptoms worsen. At those times, you may have an intense and short-term infection on top of long-term bronchitis.
When To see a Doctor!
Go see your doctor if your cough:
- Lasts more than three weeks
- Prevents you from sleeping
- Is accompanied by a fever higher than 38 C or feel hot
- Produces discoloured mucus or sputum
- Produces blood in sputum
- Is associated with any wheezing sound of breath
- Difficulty in breathing
How Can You Diagnose Bronchitis?
During the first few days of illness, it can be difficult to separate the signs and symptoms of bronchitis from those of a common cold. Your doctor will examine you closely and may conduct an additional test such as chest X-ray, blood test and others etc.
What Are The Treatments Of Bronchitis?
Most cases of short-term bronchitis resolve without treatment, usually within a couple of weeks.
What Medications can You Use?
Because most cases of bronchitis are caused by viral infections, antibiotics aren’t effective. However, if your doctor suspects that you have a bacterial infection, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic.
In some circumstances, your doctor may recommend other medications, including cough medicine, allergies, or asthma medicines in form of inhalers, especially those with a long-term disease like C.O.P.D
Other Forms Of Therapy
If you have chronic bronchitis, you may be a perfect candidate for pulmonary rehabilitation. This rehabilitation uses a breathing exercise program in which a respiratory therapist teaches you how to breathe more easily and increase your ability to exercise.
For more info about this, contact the hospital nearest to you.
What Are The Side Effects Of Bronchitis?
Although a single episode of bronchitis usually is not a cause for concern, it can lead to pneumonia in some people.
Repeated episodes of bronchitis, however, may mean that you have a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is a long-term disease of windpipe and lungs that can lead to severe damage to lungs and eventually lung failure or death.
Prevention And Home Remedies For Bronchitis
To help you feel better, and prevent bronchitis, you may want to try the following tips:
- Avoid cigarette smoke. Cigarette smoke increases your risk of long-term bronchitis.
- Get vaccinated. Many cases of acute bronchitis result from influenza, a virus. Getting a flu shot can help protect you from getting the flu.
- Hands hygiene. To reduce your risk of catching a viral infection, wash your hands frequently and get in the habit of using alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
- Wear a surgical mask. If you have COPD, you might consider wearing a facemask at work if you’re exposed to dust or fumes, and when you’re going to be among crowds, such as while travelling.
- Avoid lung irritants. Don’t smoke. Wear a mask when the air is polluted or if you’re exposed to irritants, such as paint or household cleaners with strong fumes.
- Use a humidifier. Warm, moist air helps relieve coughs and loosens mucus in your airways.
- Take plenty of fluids, such as water, fresh fruit juices and soups. This will help to thin out the mucous lining the airways and lungs.
- Avoid dairy products like milk, butter, cheese because these will increase mucus secretion in the respiratory system.
- Consume lots of Vitamin A (mostly orange coloured fruits and vegetables) and C rich foods like oranges, papaya, bell peppers, pineapple etc to help protect lung tissue.