Bronchitis is a respiratory illness in which the mucous membranes of bronchial tubes carrying air from trachea into your lungs become inflamed. As the inflamed membrane swells and becomes thicker, it becomes narrow or chokes air passages in the lungs, causing coughing spells along with thick phlegm and breathlessness. The disease can be classified in two categories:
Acute bronchitis (lasting less than 6 weeks)
Chronic bronchitis (reoccurring frequently for more than two years)
Acute bronchitis usually develops quickly and improves after several weeks. This type of bronchitis gives birth to hacking cough and phlegm/mucus production that sometimes come with an upper respiratory infection. In majority of cases the infection is viral in nature, but sometimes it’s caused by bacteria; the examples include Mycoplasma, Pneumococcus, Klebsiella, and Haemophilus. This type of bronchitis is often caused by viruses like the rhinovirus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and the influenza virus that infect the epithelium. If you are otherwise in good physical condition, the mucous membranes go back to its normal state after you’ve recovered from the primary lung infection, which usually persists for several days. Several factors contribute to augment the risk for acute bronchitis. The examples include tobacco smoke (including passive smoke), air pollution, dust, and fumes. Avoiding these lung irritants as much as possible can help reduce your risk for acute bronchitis.
Chronic bronchitis which is a kind of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is defined medically as a daily cough with production of sputum (mucus) that lasts for a 3-month period or more for two years in a row; chronic bronchitis is a serious long-lasting disorder that often demands thorough medical treatment. In case of chronic bronchitis, there are signs of inflammation and swelling of the inside layer of the airways that lead to narrowing and shutting off of the airways. The inflammation encourages the production of mucus, which can bring about further choking of the airways and increase the possibility of bacterial lung infections. Smoking is the major cause of chronic bronchitis. Other symptoms may include wheezing and shortness of breath, especially upon physical exertion. The condition often becomes worse right after awakening, and the sputum produced may show a yellow or green color and may be marked with blood.
People having chronic bronchitis are more prone to bacterial infections of the air passage and lungs, like pneumonia. In some cases of chronic bronchitis, the airway becomes permanently contaminated with bacteria. Pneumonia is more common among smokers and people exposed to passive smoke.
Bronchitis generally occurs during the cold and flu season, along with an upper respiratory infection.
Several viruses bring about bronchitis. The list includes influenza A and B, commonly known as “the flu.”
Some bacteria are also known to cause bronchitis, such as Mycoplasma pneumoniae. This causes so-called walking pneumonia.
Bronchitis also can take place when you inhale irksome fumes or dusts. Chemical solvents and smoke, including tobacco smoke, have been associated with acute bronchitis. Industrial pollution is well responsible for this.
People susceptible to bronchitis and more severe symptoms include the elderly, those with poor immune systems, smokers, and anyone with frequent exposure to lung irritants.
Signs and Symptoms
Acute bronchitis due to an infection usually occurs after you already have a cold or the flu. Sore throat, fatigue (tiredness), fever, body aches, stuffy or runny nose, vomiting, and diarrhea are the symptoms of cold and flu.
Cough, which may produce clear mucus (a slimy substance), is the major symptom of acute bronchitis. Yellow or green mucus may indicate the presence of a bacterial infection. Even after the infection clears up, you may still have a dry cough for days or weeks.
Other symptoms of acute bronchitis consists wheezing (a whistling or squeaky sound when you breathe), low fever, and chest tightness or pain. Significant phlegm production indicates infection in the lower respiratory tract and the lung itself, and you may also have pneumonia.
If your acute bronchitis is severe, you may also suffer from shortness of breath, especially with physical activity.
The signs and symptoms of chronic bronchitis include:
The coughing may stimulate the production of large amounts of mucus. This type of cough is often termed as “smoker’s cough.” Relentless forceful coughing may cause soreness to your chest and abdominal muscles.
Who Is At Risk for Bronchitis?
Bronchitis is so common a condition that millions of cases occur every year.
Elderly people, infants, and young children are at greater risk of developing acute bronchitis than people who fall in other age groups. People of all ages can develop chronic bronchitis, but it develops more often in people older than 45. Women are more susceptible to chronic bronchitis as men.
Smoking may greatly contribute to cause bronchitis of both types and having an existing lung disease makes you more susceptible to bronchitis. Passive smokers may also develop the condition.
Contact with chemical fumes, vapors, and dusts from certain jobs including coal mining, textile manufacturing, and grain handling, metal molding also increase your risk for the condition.
Your doctor usually will diagnose bronchitis examining your signs and symptoms. He or she may enquire about your cough, such as the duration of cough, what you’re coughing up, and how much you cough.
Your doctor also may also ask:
About your medical history
Whether you’ve recently had a cold or the flu
Whether you smoke or stay near about when others smoke
If you’ve been exposed to air pollution, dust, or fumes
Your doctor will use a stethoscope to detect wheezing (a whistling or squeaky sound when you breathe) or other abnormal sounds in your lungs. He or she also may try to find out the following:
Whether you have a bacterial infection in your muscles
The oxygen levels in your blood using a sensor attached to your fingertip or toe
You may also be recommended a chest x ray, lung function tests, or blood tests.
The most of the cases of bronchitis arise from viral infections. This indicates that most of the cases of bronchitis are temporary and actually need nothing more than treatment of symptoms to relieve uneasiness.
Some home treatments can be followed:
Drink fluids every one to two hours unless your doctor has limited your fluid intake
Relieve body aches by consuming aspirin or acetaminophen. But if you are taking any other drugs, consult your doctor to make sure aspirin or acetaminophen will not react with them. Children should not be given aspirin.
A cool and help to reduce bronchial irritation. Abide by your doctor’s instructions to help clear your mucus.
If you are coughing up mucus, make a note how often you cough as well as the color and amount of the mucus and inform this to your doctor.
Reducing inflammation is the primary concern for treating acute bronchitis.
Albuterol inhalation, either with a hand held device like meter dosed inhaler, MDI or nebulizer will help enlarge the bronchial tubes.
It is imperative to keep the patient comfortable by treating fever with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Drinking lots of fluid will help keep the patient well hydrated and hydration keeps secretions into the bronchial tubes more liquid and easier to eject.
An over-the-counter cough suppressant also may be useful. Preparations with guaifenesin (Robitussin, Breonesin, and Mucinex) will release secretions.
If you already have chronic bronchitis and have also been diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), you may need medicines to enlarge your airways and help clear away mucus. The medicines include bronchodilators (inhaled) and steroids (inhaled or pill form).
Sometimes people having chronic bronchitis require oxygen therapy to make them able to breathe better and get enough oxygen to their bodies.
It is not always possible to prevent acute or chronic bronchitis. But you can lower your risk for both types of the conditions.
The most vital step is to quit smoking or not to indulge in smoking. Don’t permit others to smoke in your home.
Try to avoid other lung irritants, including secondhand smoke, fumes, air pollution, and dust. Wear a mask over your mouth and nose when you use paint, paint remover, varnish, or other things with strong fumes to avoid irritants. This will give protection to your lungs.
Wash your hands frequently to reduce exposure to germs and bacteria.
Avoid sharing food, cups, glasses, or eating utensils.
Follow healthy diet.
Get a flu shot every year, particularly if you have lung disorders. Get a pneumonia vaccine as per your doctor’s advice if you’re aged 60 or older.