Bronchitis is a condition which occurs due to the inflammation of bronchial tubes. There are two types of bronchitis; acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis.
There are various factors involved in the development of bronchitis. The lifestyle of a person and his or her medical history are the main risk factors for bronchitis. However, the risk factors for acute and chronic bronchitis can be different. There are some proven vaccines available for preventing diseases such as flu, whooping cough etc. Not taking the prescribed vaccination at the appropriate age might also be one of the reasons for getting the bronchial infection. In some cases, the risk factors may not be directly responsible for the development of chronic bronchitis but may increase the possibility of getting the disease. The following are the main risk factors for acute and chronic bronchitis.
Smoking poses a very high risk of getting Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The mix of toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke causes irreversible damage to the lungs. Cigarette smoke not only damages the inner lining of the bronchi causing inflammation and excessive mucus production but it also paralyses the hair-like cilia that line the airway and are responsible for clearing out excess mucus, dust and other foreign particles. The result is heavy mucus production which traps and accumulates other pollutants and irritants with no natural mechanism for the body to clean itself out. Hence it is no surprise that smokers are prone to lung disease including acute and chronic bronchitis. It has been found from studies that more than 50% of the long-term smokers aged above 65 years have got this disease. Pipe and cigar smokers are observed to have comparatively less risk of chronic bronchitis than cigarette smokers. The risk of getting chronic bronchitis depends on the number of cigarettes an individual smokes each day and for how many years he or she has been smoking. People who smoke cigarette and marijuana regularly involve themselves in a very high risk of COPD. Quitting smoking is strongly recommended for preventing this serious chronic disease.
Second-Hand Smoking or Passive Smoking
Inhaling the smoker’s smoke is also a risk factor of this disease. Inhaling even low amounts of secondhand smoke can greatly increase a person’s risk of lung and heart disease. The smoke exhaled by a smoker spreads bacteria in the air within the surrounding area and infects a person who happens to be nearby. Secondhand cigarette smoke is also known to contain a number of harmful chemicals and carcinogens which can lead to lung damage in the exposed individual. A person who lives around a smoker has a high risk for contracting this disease due to his close and regular association with him or her. Children are especially at a high risk of developing lung diseases like bronchitis from exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke. Studies have shown that in the US alone 15-30 lakh children are hospitalized annually because of lung disease as a result of secondhand smoke.
Weak Immune System
Infants and children below the age of 5 will be normally having weaker immune systems since it is under development stage and hence they become vulnerable to diseases like bronchitis, flu or cold.
Elderly people aged 65 and above will have weaker immunity and face difficulty fighting off infections. Illness like a cold or any other medical conditions by which the immune system becomes weak creates a high risk of bronchitis in these individuals.
People mentioned below are very much vulnerable to getting affected by bronchial viruses since their bodies have a very weak immunity system.
- People having problems such as allergies, cystic fibrosis or asthma
- People suffering from Tuberculosis (TB)
- People having HIV
- People suffering from flu, sinusitis and cold
- People having diabetes
The individuals who are living with the above mentioned people or attending to them at home or hospitals will have a high risk of getting acute bronchitis. This is because of the contagious nature of these diseases. By taking adequate precautions while handling or treating patients, bronchitis infections can be avoided.
There are some places where high levels of air pollutants are prevalent. These areas include textile mills, chemical industries, grain storage facilities etc. Polluted air at the textile mills, toxic fumes coming out from the chemical industries, smoke coming out from vehicles and the dust prevailing at the grain storage facility lead to high level of air pollution. This polluted air irritate bronchial tubes resulting in swelling. This condition affects the immune system of the body and makes it weak. People who work at the above mentioned facilities or live nearby have a high risk for getting bronchitis. Inhaling the smoke coming out from a big fire can also pose a risk of bronchitis.
Being Around Infected Individuals
Acute bronchitis is a highly contagious disease. The person who is infected with this disease coughs, sneezes and spits mucus frequently. Through his cough and sneezing, viruses and bacteria are spread into the surrounding air.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
GERD is a condition that occurs due to excess acid in an individual’s stomach. This acid gets pushed upwards into the digestive tract and damages the esophagus. People suffering from GERD are at a high risk of developing bronchitis because in some cases the stomach acids can enter the respiratory tract causing lung damage and weakening the bronchi.
Acute and chronic bronchitis occur when the bronchi become inflamed. People who are at a high risk of contracting either one form of bronchitis or another include:
- Heavy smokers
- Victims of secondhand smoke
- Individuals with weak immune systems like children and the elderly
- Individuals with compromised immune systems like asthmatics and HIV+ patients, etc
- Individuals exposed to high levels of air pollution or industrial fumes
- Relatives, friends and caregivers of infected individuals who are in close proximity with the patient
- Individuals who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease
If you fall into any of these categories then taking the right preventive measures like getting flu and pneumonia vaccines, quitting smoking, wearing an air filtering face mask, etc, could go a long way in preventing an attack of bronchitis.