Bronchitis, the condition in which the bronchial tubes are inflamed, is classified into two main types – acute and chronic bronchitis. Acute bronchitis often goes away after one to two weeks, while chronic bronchitis may recur and remain for months on end. Viruses cause acute bronchitis, while smoking is one of the most common reasons for chronic bronchitis. Air pollution, dust, chemicals, smoke, and toxic gases may also lead to a chronic form of this condition. Both types of bronchitis are characterized by a cough with mucus, fatigue, slight fever, and discomfort in the chest. The cough may remain for a few weeks in the case of acute bronchitis, while it may linger for more than two months with chronic conditions.
Treatment for acute bronchitis focuses on reducing inflammation and include:
- Dilating the bronchial tubes with albuterol inhalation or nebulization alleviates the symptoms.
- Inflammation can also be reduced by steroid therapy. Prednisone is the most commonly prescribed medication for this effect. Side effects of steroid therapy can be minimized by inhalation of the steroids.
- Drinking plenty of liquids improves hydration. This makes it easier for the secretions to be removed from the body.
- Fever associated with acute bronchitis is treated with acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
- Cough suppressants and cough drops help to reduce the cough and provide relief.
People with high blood pressure should be very careful while choosing cough syrups, as some of these medications may increase pressure. The same is true for diabetes and one should be careful to choose medications that do not increase blood glucose levels.
The first step for treatment for chronic bronchitis is quitting smoking. Avoiding second hand smoke is equally important to control this condition. Most of the treatment options focus on removing the root cause of bronchial inflammation and irritation. Chronic bronchitis is also treated with medications.
Medications used to treat bronchitis include:
- Bronchodilators that help to relax muscles supporting bronchi and to open up the airways.
- Inflammation can also be reduced using steroids. Steroid therapy helps to reduce swelling and secretions in the airways, thus expanding the airways for unobstructed air flow.
- For excessive production of mucus, PDE4 (an anti-inflammatory agent) is used.
- Antibiotics are prescribed for exacerbations of bronchitis caused by bacterial infections.
- A cough can be reduced by over-the-counter medications, like cough suppressants.
- As cold conditions aggravate a cough, using a cold-air mask would be useful. Dry air also aggravates coughs, so humidified air is ideal to reduce the symptoms.