Healthy Living

What Are the Treatment Options Available for Bronchitis?

What Are the Treatment Options Available for Bronchitis?

Key Takeaways

  • There are two types of bronchitis: acute and chronic bronchitis.
  • About 90 percent of acute bronchitis cases are caused by a viral infection.
  • Chronic bronchitis is a long-term disease, which cannot be cured. Managing the symptoms to make life more comfortable is usually recommended by doctors.

Bronchitis is a condition that occurs due to the inflammation of the bronchial tubes. There are two types of bronchitis: acute and chronic. Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a viral infection or in some cases (10%) by a bacterial infection. Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, is a long-term illness that is caused due to a prolonged exposure to irritants such as smoke, fumes, and dust that cause damage to the inner lining of the bronchial tubes.

The main task of the doctor who will treat the condition is to bring relief to the patient from two critical issues:

  1. Symptoms such as a cough, fever, and mucus formation
  2. Breathing difficulties

Acute Bronchitis 

People who are suffering from acute bronchitis can follow the steps below for a quicker recovery:

  • Taking a good rest
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Avoid smoking or inhaling air that is polluted with dust or fumes coming out from a big fire.
  • Avoid physical contact, such as shaking hands with persons who are suffering from chest infections.
  • Sanitize your hands by handwashing or by using a hand sanitizer.
  • Steam inhalation
  • Taking the medications prescribed by the doctor.

If necessary, the doctor might also prescribe a bronchodilator to open up the bronchi and help improve one's breathing.

In acute bronchitis, coughing will bring out the excess mucus from the airways and the lungs. The person will feel comfortable gradually as the excess mucus keeps coming out from a cough. In the case of persons who suffer from chronic bronchitis, oral steroids are prescribed in order to reduce inflammation and to increase the intake of oxygen to the lungs. However, for people who are normally healthy and have clear lungs without any congestion, antibiotics are not prescribed. The reason is that in most of the cases, viruses are involved in causing the inflammation and antibiotics will not be helpful.

In the case of a severe and painful cough, which persists for a prolonged period, the doctor may prescribe a cough suppressant to ease the condition and aspirin or acetaminophen to reduce fever or discomfort. In children, the prescription of aspirin may not be recommended since it will only increase their risk for Reye’s syndrome. In acute bronchitis, the doctor might prescribe an antibiotic in cases where he or she detects a secondary bacterial infection.     

Chronic Bronchitis

Most people with chronic bronchitis are vulnerable to lung infections. People who have chronic bronchitis should take flu shots or vaccination against pneumonia every year. However, this should be done only after consulting the doctor. If anybody takes the pneumonia vaccine (PPSV23) regularly every year, it will prevent them from catching bacterial pneumonia up to the age of 65 years. After the age of 65, pneumonia vaccine will be given along in a different sequence with a booster dose. One should not go in for cough medicines, which are available over-the-counter to treat chronic bronchitis without consulting the doctor.

In case the doctor finds that excess mucus is not coming out through one's coughing mechanism, expectorants will be prescribed to get rid of phlegm or mucus from the lungs. Moreover, a broad-spectrum antibiotic will be prescribed for a duration of 5 to 10 days to kill different types of bacteria. It is also advisable for overweight individuals to try and lose weight to reduce the excess strain on their heart and lungs.    

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a long-term condition characterized by a poor flow of air into the lungs. For individuals with COPD, the doctor may additionally prescribe an anticholinergic bronchodilator, which temporarily enlarges the narrowed airways of the lungs.

Putting an end to smoking was found to be the most effective and successful in the treatment of chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. It has been established through studies that those who have stopped smoking even at the advanced stage of chronic bronchitis and COPD, not only have reduced the severity of their symptoms but also increased their lifespan. In some cases, the lungs might have become very weak and may not be able to pass on enough oxygen into the bloodstream. Under this condition, a continuous or need-based oxygen therapy will be an option for the doctor to treat the patient. 

As of now, there is still no cure for COPD and the best a doctor can do is to help the patients manage their symptoms. On a personal level, the patient can make the necessary lifestyle changes required to prevent flare-ups. There are certain breathing exercises that one can do when suffering from COPD. 

  • Pursed lip breathing - this exercise helps ease shortness of breath. While keeping the neck and shoulders relaxed, the patient must breathe in through the nose while keep the mouth closed for two seconds and then purse their lips as if they are going to whistle and breathe out for about four seconds.
  • Diaphragmatic breathing - this type of breathing employs the help of the abdominal muscles to help empty the lungs of air. Patients are required to lie down on their back, place their hand on their abdomen, and practice breathing with the help of their diaphragm. This technique is not as effective as the pursed lip breathing.

Conclusion

There are two types of bronchitis: acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis. If in the rare case that acute bronchitis is caused due to a bacterial infection or if a secondary bacterial infection is suspected or diagnosed, then the doctor might prescribe a course of antibiotics for the same. However, 90 percent of acute bronchitis cases are caused by a viral infection and just be allowed to run their course. Having enough rest, staying well-hydrated, and taking cough suppressants in the case of a persistent cough, are some of the ways to help patients feel better and speed up their recovery during the course of infection.

Chronic bronchitis is a long-term disease, which cannot be cured. Managing the symptoms to make life more comfortable is usually recommended by doctors. For the management of chronic bronchitis, cough suppressants, bronchodilators, expectorants (to help loosen the mucus in the bronchi), or steroids (to reduce inflammation) are prescribed. It is also advisable to quit smoking completely and avoid inhaling any fumes, smoke, dust, or other irritants that could cause a flare in the symptoms and lead to further damage of the inner bronchial lining.

Steam inhalation or using a humidifier are simple home remedies one can use to help alleviate some of the symptoms of bronchitis.

In cases of COPD, doctors might recommend certain breathing exercises that could help strengthen the lungs and reduce the symptoms. Breathing exercises can either be pursed lip or diaphragmatic breathing.