Bronchitis is inflammation of the cells lining the bronchial tubes. It is a lower respiratory tract infection that usually follows an upper respiratory tract infection from the Influenza virus or other infectious agent. Acute bronchitis can occur in anyone and is generally suspected when a person has a cough lasting more than 5 days. Acute bronchitis will usually resolve on its own without any medical treatment.
If a cough lasts for more than 3 months, it is likely a sign of chronic bronchitis. Habitual smokers are especially predisposed to developing chronic bronchitis. This medical condition may or may not resolve without medical treatment. The discomfort associated with coughing is often what causes individuals with chronic bronchitis to seek treatment.
Medical therapy for bronchitis is focused on relief of the symptoms. To accomplish this, two objectives are established:
- To open the obstructed airways.
- To reduce the thickness of the mucus so that it can be easily coughed out.
A combination of medications may be prescribed to relieve symptoms:
- Antibiotics – This is only given if your doctor suspects that the bronchitis is due to a bacterial infection. Most cases of bronchitis are due to a viral infection, and antibiotics are not prescribed.
- Cough suppressants – Coughing is an important bodily reflex that rids the airways of mucus as well as removes harmful irritants. However, if coughing disturbs your sleep at night, you might be prescribed medicine such as codeine or dextromethorphan that suppresses coughing.
- Inhalers – If you are an individual with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary Disease (COPD), bronchial infections can aggravate your asthma and make you breathless. Therefore, your doctor may prescribe an inhaler to make breathing easier. Albuterol and salbutamol are medicines that dilate the bronchial tubes. This allows for better air entry and makes it easier to breathe.
- Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) – If you are experiencing pain, NSAIDS may offer some relief.
- Mucolytic – These medicines reduce the thickness of mucus and make it easier for you to cough it out. These are often prescribed to patients with chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
- Steroids – These reduce inflammation in the bronchial tubes. Because the prescription steroid prednisone increases blood glucose levels, it is important for patients with diabetes mellitus to strictly monitor their blood sugar. If possible, they should avoid taking prednisone.
- Good hydration – Drinking water is very important in the treatment of bronchitis.
- Paracetamol – This can be taken if you experience fever associated with bronchitis.