Every time you inhale, air enters your nose and mouth, and then flows down the throat through the air passageways called as bronchial tubes. For the air to reach the lungs, these passageways need to be open. To transport the oxygen to the tissues of the body, oxygen is passed into the blood. It would be difficult for the air to reach the lungs if the airways are inflamed. Thus, shortness of breath can be experienced. In an attempt to take in more oxygen through the air passageways, you may cough and wheeze. The two inflammatory airway conditions are called bronchitis and asthma.
Asthma and Bronchitis
fasthmaThis lung condition can cause respiratory congestion and shortness of breath due to inflammation. In asthma, the inflamed airways cause shortness of breath along with chest tightness, wheezing, and a chronic cough.
In the United States, acute bronchitis is a common respiratory disorder, especially in infants and young children. It is commonly caused by upper respiratory viral infections. Asthma increases the risk of acute bronchitis since the airway becomes more sensitive to inflammation and irritation. If you are exposed to air pollution or if you smoke, then you are at a higher risk of developing acute bronchitis.
Acute bronchitis usually resolves on its own. In this condition, the airway lining gets inflamed due to bacterial or viral infections. Long-term exposure to environmental irritants such as smoke, chemicals, dust, tobacco, and other allergens can trigger chronic bronchitis.
Asthma causes the muscles around the airways to tighten, thereby making the airways become narrow. When asthma and bronchitis happen at the same time, it is known as asthmatic bronchitis.
In asthmatic bronchitis, there is inflammation of the bronchial passageways along with an excessive mucus production. Due to asthma, the airways become narrow and the muscles around the airways become tight and swollen. The symptoms of asthmatic bronchitis are more severe than chronic bronchitis, although their symptoms are somewhat similar. For this reason, it can be challenging to have an accurate diagnosis.
To avoid further complications, the condition should be identified and treated as soon as possible. Conventional and home remedies can help. There is no cure for asthma, but natural treatments focus more on controlling bronchitis and relieving the symptoms.
The symptoms may also vary depending on the severity of the infection. Treatment options include bronchodilators, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, and pulmonary hygiene, which include:
- Postural Drainage - For a more effective sputum expectoration, the patient is placed in a slightly inverted position.
- Chest Percussion - A respiratory therapist gently pounds the chest of the patient.
Some healthy lifestyle practices should also be followed. They include drinking plenty of fluids, good handwashing habits, consuming a well-balanced diet, not smoking, and getting plenty of rest. These practices can help improve and prevent asthmatic bronchitis.
Immediately seek medical attention if you experience severe breathing difficulty along with pale or blue lips, chest pressure, and a fast heart rate. Moreover, seek prompt medical care if mild symptoms recur or persist in spite of being treated for asthmatic bronchitis.
The symptoms of asthmatic bronchitis may vary among individuals. The common symptoms can be experienced daily or once in a while, but at any point, the symptoms may become severe. They include:
- Chest tightness or chest pain
- A dry or nonproductive cough
- Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
Serious symptoms may indicate a life-threatening condition. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience the following symptoms:
- Fainting or loss of consciousness
- Respiratory problems such as difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath, wheezing, choking or not breathing, labored breathing, or other breathing problems
Some of the major symptoms:
- Shortness of Breath - People may experience breathing difficulties such as shortness of breath or breathlessness due to inflamed airways.
- Frequent Coughing - Chronic inflammation of the airways may cause frequent coughing. A cough may or may not expel sputum.
- Sore Throat - Individuals may experience a sore throat due to frequent coughing.
- Nocturnal Cough - A cough that occurs at night. People may wake up due to severe coughing.
- Wheezing Sound - A wheezing sound while breathing is usually observed in people with asthmatic bronchitis.
- Recurrent Chest Infections - Repeated chest infections along with other respiratory symptoms can be experienced by people with asthmatic bronchitis.
Asthma in conjunction with many other factors can increase the risk of bronchitis. The following conditions and allergens may trigger asthmatic bronchitis:
- Air pollution
- Jobs associated with coal mining, livestock, and grain textile
- Underlying lung disease
- Upper respiratory infection
- Certain medications such as beta-blockers and aspirin
- Cold weather
- Strong emotions such as laughing or crying
- Bacterial or viral infections
In asthmatic bronchitis, the mucous membrane of the bronchi may become inflamed or swollen. Breathing problems occur due to inflammation of the trachea. Usually, this condition is caused by chronic bronchitis, wherein the airways get permanently damaged. This is due to long-term exposure to irritants or long-term smoking. In the case of chronic bronchitis, long-term exposure to irritants can cause asthma.
Visiting the Doctor
Make an appointment with the doctor if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms. The doctor will ask you a series of questions and then conduct a physical examination along with obtaining your medical history. The doctor may also order the following tests:
- Spirometry - This test is helpful when it comes to assessing the function of your lungs as you breathe in and out using a mouthpiece that is attached to a spirometer.
- Chest X-ray - It is an imaging test that utilizes radiation in small amounts to create images that reflect chest and lung conditions.
- Peak Expiratory Flow - It measures exhaled air into a device's mouthpiece called peak expiratory flow meter.
How to Prevent Asthmatic Bronchitis
The risk of developing asthmatic bronchitis can be lowered by the following precautions:
- Get yourself vaccinated for pneumococcal vaccine or annual flu shot
- Quit smoking
- Avoid secondhand smoke
- Practice good hygiene to prevent the spread of infection
- Wash your hands regularly, especially before and after activities
- Follow your doctor's instructions and take all your medications even if you already feel better
The main aim of treating asthmatic bronchitis is to reduce congestion and asthma-related bronchospasm. Long-term medications are included as a part of asthmatic bronchitis treatment. These medications can help prevent asthma attacks.
Short-term asthma medications are given in an asthma attack. Since the most common causes of acute bronchitis are viral infections, antibiotics are not usually used for its treatment. The mucus in the airways can be thinned by using expectorants.
1. Long-Term Asthma Control Medications
To control and prevent symptoms, long-term asthma control medications are taken orally each day. Inhaled corticosteroids are the most effective long-term asthma medications. They include:
- Immunomodulators - Omalizumab is an injectable antibody used to control severe allergic asthma symptoms. It is usually given every 2-4 weeks.
- Inhaled Corticosteroids - They include budesonide such as Pulmicort Respules and Pulmicort Flexhaler, Flovent HFA (fluticasone propionate), flunisolide inhalation aerosol, and Azmacort (triamcinolone acetonide).
- Long-Acting Beta-Agonist Medications - Such medications include Foradil (formoterol) and Serevent Diskus (salmeterol). They are given for the prevention asthma attacks.
- Leukotriene Modifiers – They include Singulair (montelukast), which can also be used for the management of allergies such as allergic rhinitis and allergic conjunctivitis.
2. Quick-Relief Asthma Medications
These medications are used for the treatment of acute asthma symptoms. Generally, these drugs are inhaled through a device called an inhaler. When there is a sudden onset of asthma symptoms, then these rescue medications are used. They include short-acting beta-agonists, which include bronchodilators such as:
- Xopenex (levalbuterol)
- Proventil HFA, Ventolin HFA, and ProAir HFA (albuterol sulfate)
- AccuNeb (albuterol sulfate inhalation solution)
Treatment Options for Asthma
For individuals with asthma, the treatment options are as follows:
- Antibiotic Therapy - It is only given when there is a bacterial infection.
- Analgesics - They include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin for adults, and naproxen (Aleve).
- Nebulizer or metered-dose inhaler - They can be used if wheezing is present.
- Humidifiers - To increase moisture in the air.
- Chest Physiotherapy or Postural Drainage - To promote coughing up of mucus or phlegm.
- Hydration - To help thin out mucus.
- Quitting smoking - If you are a smoker.
- Oxygen Therapy - For acute severe asthma.
Another way of improving asthmatic bronchitis is by reducing your exposure to the triggers that cause it. Other ways include:
- Getting plenty of rest
- Taking your medications as prescribed by the doctor
- Drinking adequate amounts of fluid
The complications associated with asthmatic bronchitis that is poorly controlled or left untreated can be life-threatening. The seriousness of these complications can be minimized by following the treatment plan suggested by your healthcare provider. Complications may include:
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Respiratory failure
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Sinusitis (in some cases)
Hospitalization may be needed in the case of an acute asthmatic bronchitis. An emergency condition may arise due to an overdose and serious reactions in some patients. Asthmatic bronchitis due to bacterial or viral infections may need immediate medical attention.
- Herbal Tea - This can be prepared from cinnamon, ginger, spearmint, peppermint, aniseed, rosemary, licorice root, and eucalyptus.
- Honey - You can also add some honey to herbal teas for an enhanced taste. Honey can help ease mucous membranes. A dry cough associated with asthmatic bronchitis can be relieved by having a mixture of one teaspoon of honey with ginger juice. Grape juice mixed with honey also helps relieve the condition.
- Lemon Juice - This is one of the most trusted home remedies for cough and colds.
- Raw Garlic - Another natural remedy for asthmatic bronchitis is regularly having 3-5 cloves of raw garlic. It acts as an expectorant, which possesses antiviral and antibacterial properties.
- Alternative Therapies - They include acupressure, acupuncture, and aromatherapy.
Diet for People with Asthmatic Bronchitis
It is highly recommended to eat a diet rich in vitamin C and E, which includes green vegetables, fresh fruits, sprouts, salads, and other healthy foods. At regular intervals, drink an adequate amount of water. You can also consume hot broths and vegetable soup. Avoid consuming foods that are fried, processed, or has food additives. Stay away from sugary drinks and alcoholic beverages as well.