Bronchitis, or the inflammation of the bronchial tubes, affects the amount of oxygen reaching the lungs. Inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes causes phlegm build up in the airways. Coughing spells and breathlessness are characteristics of this condition.
Bronchitis is divided into two types:
- Acute bronchitis – Symptoms of acute bronchitis may last up to three weeks, and often accompany upper respiratory tract infections. It may be caused by viral or bacterial infections. Once the infection is through, the mucus membrane of the airways may return back to its healthy condition.
- Chronic bronchitis – This is a long-term condition characterized by persistent cough that lasts for several weeks and months in a year. The frequency and intensity of the symptoms may vary depending on the individual, and from one season to the other. It often requires medical treatment.
Acute bronchitis is characterized by:
- Nagging coughs that continue for a week or so
- The presence of yellowish or greenish phlegm
- Soreness in chest
Fever is not generally seen in acute bronchitis, and even if it is present, it will be mild. The cough may persists even after the infection is resolved.
Chronic bronchitis is characterized by:
- Persistent cough that continues for at least three months
Coughs associated with chronic bronchitis often worsen in the morning and during damp conditions. People with this form of bronchitis are prone to frequent respiratory infections.
Acute bronchitis can be treated with methods, including:
- Getting adequate rest
- Taking plenty of fluids
- Avoiding irritating chemicals and fumes
- Inhaling bronchodilators (as recommended by doctors)
- Cough syrup
If cough persists for more than two weeks and affects one's sleep, cough suppressants may be suggested.
Bronchitis symptoms may be relieved by:
- Mucolytics help to thin down the mucus in the airways, making it easier to breathe.
- Anti-inflammatory medications are useful in persistent cough.
- Glucocorticoid medications are also recommended for symptoms that persist for a long time
- Quitting smoking
- Using humidifiers
Those who are having chronic bronchitis are advised to have flu shots to avoid complications, like pneumonia. Cough suppressants are not recommended for chronic bronchitis. Doctors often suggest expectorant, which will be useful in coughing up the phlegm easily. Thick phlegm may be an indication of bacterial infection which is treated with appropriate antibiotics.
Those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are recommended to have anticholinergic bronchodilators, medications that dilate the airways and make breathing easy. Oxygen therapy is suggested to improve the transfer of oxygen from the lungs to the blood stream.