What is allergic bronchitis?
Bronchitis is an inflammation of the inner lining of the bronchial tubes usually due to a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. Bronchitis itself can be acute when the signs and symptoms last no longer than 10 days, and chronic when the signs and symptoms tend to last for weeks and even months.
Allergic bronchitis is another form of bronchitis, which happens due to an allergic reaction of the airways. Due to an allergen exposure, the inner lining of the bronchial tubes tends to get inflamed leading to a variety of signs and symptoms. Moreover, allergic bronchitis tends to have a seasonal characteristic and its signs and symptoms tend to get worse when you are frequently exposed to certain allergens. In most of the cases, allergic bronchitis is just a short-term health problem.
Allergic bronchitis can also be accompanied by other signs and symptoms of certain allergies, which makes it easier for the doctor to diagnose the condition.
What causes allergic bronchitis?
Allergic bronchitis is caused by different genetic factors as well as environmental factors causing an allergic reaction to the predisposed person. Some of the common factors causing allergic bronchitis include:
- tobacco smoke
- animal dander
What are the risk factors for allergic bronchitis?
One of the risk factors for allergic bronchitis is cigarette smoking. You can also develop this disease if you are:
- a female and above 45 years old
- have existing allergies
- frequently exposed to allergens such as dust or chemicals, especially if your work involves textile manufacturing or coal mining
What are its signs and symptoms?
The signs and symptoms of allergic bronchitis are mostly the same as the signs and symptoms of other types of bronchitis. Shortness of breath is the main symptom of allergic bronchitis, especially during and right after a physical activity. The condition also tends to get worse over time.
Coughing in allergic bronchitis tends to get worse during the day and may last for about three months. The intensity of coughing varies from one person to another, always depending on the response of the immune system to the allergen. At nighttime, the attack is usually a dry cough, which interferes with your sleep.
Wheezing is another manifestation of allergic bronchitis. It is a sound produced while the air gets in and out of the lungs. As the airways are narrowed due to the inflammation, a wheezing sound is often noticed. The sound can also be heard from the distance without the use of a stethoscope.
Other signs and symptoms of allergic bronchitis may include a sore throat, chest pain, fatigue, and headaches.
How is allergic bronchitis diagnosed?
Diagnosing allergic bronchitis and distinguishing it from the acute and chronic type of bronchitis is not that easy. However, doctors tend to look for other signs and symptoms of allergy that accompany bronchitis.
Acute bronchitis usually tends to go away within 10 days, while chronic bronchitis can last for weeks and even months. On the other hand, allergic bronchitis tends to be triggered by the above-mentioned factors and usually has a seasonal characteristic pattern.
If your doctor suspects that you might have allergic bronchitis, he or she might refer you to a lung specialist called a pulmonologist. To accurately diagnose your lung condition, blood analysis, chest X-rays, a CT scan of your lungs, as well as spirometry examinations might be requested by your doctor. Allergy tests are also recommended in order to determine what you are allergic to.
How is it treated?
If you are diagnosed with allergic bronchitis, the best thing to do is to avoid the things that can trigger your condition as much as possible. As it tends to have a seasonal characteristic, its signs and symptoms tend to vary in their severity from time to time with periods of complete remission. For its treatment, your doctor will usually prescribe bronchodilators, corticosteroids, or oxygen therapy.
A bronchodilator is a type of drug that can help widen your airways. Bronchodilators work by relaxing the muscles around your airway to help you breathe better. For a faster relief, these drugs are often breathed in through the use of an inhaler. Bronchodilators can also be short-acting or long-acting. Short-acting bronchodilators provide a quicker relief while the long-acting ones tend to have a slower effect, making them suitable for everyday use.
Examples of short-acting bronchodilators are ipratropium, albuterol, and levalbuterol. The effects of long-acting bronchodilators such as tiotropium, salmeterol, and formoterol can last for 12-24 hours.
Steroids can also be given in allergic bronchitis to bring down the swelling and inflammation in the airways. Some examples of steroids are budesonide, fluticasone, and mometasone, which are usually breathed in through an inhaler. In some cases, steroids can also be taken along with long-acting bronchodilators for a faster relief.
One of the most effective ways in preventing allergic bronchitis is to quit smoking. By quitting smoking, you can also prevent other health problems from developing such as heart diseases and cancer. You can consult your doctor about the methods on how to effectively quit smoking. Some methods include taking medicines to cut your cigarette cravings or by having nicotine replacements.
The following are some guidelines for better lung protection:
- Ensure that you a have a well-ventilated area when you are working with chemicals.
- You can use a respirator that covers your nose and mouth if the ventilation in your working area is poor. The respirator can filter the air you breathe before it reaches your lungs.
- Avoid using spray chemicals at home. They include indoor bug sprays, spray paints, hair sprays, and other household cleaning agents. If there is a need for you to use these spray products, make sure that you open the windows and wear a mask before spraying. If possible, use the spray in a well-ventilated area.
- Whenever you’re working, always put your mask on to avoid breathing in common allergens such as pollen, dust, and other irritants like pet dander.
- If you notice that your bronchitis is frequently triggered by allergens, you can consult an allergy specialist to help diagnose your condition. An allergist can give you shots or prescription medicine to help relieve your allergy symptoms.