Everything You Need to Know if You Have Bronchitis
Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchi, and it can either be acute or chronic. If you are diagnosed with bronchitis, your cough can persist for a couple of weeks or even longer. It is important to seek appropriate medical attention, as it can lead to serious complications if not treated properly. Click through this slideshow to learn about the different symptoms of bronchitis, when you should see a doctor, and how to treat it.
What Is Bronchitis?
Bronchitis is known to be a medical condition that leads to inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes. These tubes carry air to and from the lung section. Those individuals who suffer from bronchitis are known to often cough up thick mucus that is generally discolored. The condition of bronchitis can be either acute or chronic. The acute form of bronchitis is said to occur often from a cold or any other form of respiratory infection, whereas the chronic case of bronchitis is known to be the more serious of the two, and it leads to a constant occurrence of irritation to or inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes. This chronic case is mostly caused due to smoking. The acute form of bronchitis is also known as a chest cold, which it is said to mostly improve within a period of ten days, and also, there are no lasting effects, but the cough is known to linger for about a week or so. But those individuals who suffer from a constant case of coughing or repeated occurrences of bronchitis may suffer from the chronic condition of bronchitis. This condition would need urgent medical attention and should not be ignored. Chronic bronchitis is known to be one of the conditions that is also a part of COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
For either the acute or chronic conditions of bronchitis, the signs and symptoms can include:
- Sudden shortness of breath
- Discomfort in the chest
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Coughing, which becomes persistent in certain cases
- Slight fever
- There is a production of mucus, which is basically clear, yellowish-gray, white, or green in color. In certain rare cases, it can turn out to be red, like blood.
For those individuals who suffer from acute bronchitis, the symptoms may be similar to cold symptoms, which can include mild headaches or body aches. These symptoms are known to improve in a weeks’ time, but the cough can linger for weeks after. If the individual suffers from the chronic form of bronchitis, there would be certain periods wherein the cough or any of the other symptoms experienced by the individual may start to worsen. In those instances, the individual may also suffer from an acute infection on top of the chronic bronchitis.
The cause of acute bronchitis is due to viruses, and it is usually the same virus that is known to cause the flu or a cold. Use of antibiotics would not help since they do not kill viruses, hence, antibiotic medications do not seem to be of any help in treating bronchitis here. On the other hand, one of the most common causes of chronic bronchitis is attributed to smoking. A few other conditions which can also lead to bronchitis are constant exposure to dust, toxic gas, and pollution in the air. This can occur anywhere, whether at home or the workplace.
A few of the factors that are known to increase one’s risk of getting bronchitis are:
- Smoking cigarettes: Those individuals who smoke or who live with a smoker are at the highest risk of developing either acute or chronic bronchitis.
- Gastric reflux: Due to repeated occurrences of heartburn, this can also lead to irritation in the throat, thereby making the individual prone to developing bronchitis.
- Weakened immune system: This normally can occur in those individuals who are already suffering from a different medical condition, such as a cold or from any other chronic condition that can cause an impairment of the immune system. Elderly individuals, infants, and small children are prone to such infections.
- Exposure to any kind of irritants at the workplace: There is a higher chance of developing bronchitis if the individual is known to work around certain kinds of lung irritants, and those can include textiles or being exposed to certain chemicals or fumes from factories.
During the initial period of the bronchitis infection, it may become difficult for one to differentiate between signs of a cold and bronchitis. The doctor, with the help of a stethoscope, can closely listen to the lungs as you breathe. In certain cases, the doctor may also suggest to go in for other medical tests, which can include:
- Sputum tests: Sputum is basically known as the mucus that one tends to cough up from the lungs. This sputum can be used to test and see if there is any presence of illness that could be treated with the help of antibiotics. This sputum is also known to be tested for the presence of any kind of allergies in the individual.
- X-ray of the chest: Carrying out an X-ray of the chest would be helpful in determining if the individual has pneumonia or any other condition that can explain the reason for their cough. This becomes very important if the individual was or is currently a smoker.
- Pulmonary function test: In this particular test, the individual is instructed to blow into a device, which is known as a spirometer. This instrument helps to measure how much air is held in the lungs and how quickly the air can get out of them, too. This test is also termed as useful for checking on any signs related to asthma.
When it comes to acute bronchitis, it would usually get better without the need for treatments and it can happen in a couple of weeks’ time.
Medications: Since many cases of bronchitis are due to viral infections, antibiotics would not be of much use. But, if the doctor suspects that the individual has a bacterial infection, then they can prescribe certain antibiotics. Also, in certain circumstances, the doctor can also recommend to go in for other medications, which may include cough medicines. This is mostly given to keep the cough in check, especially for those whose cough interrupts their sleep. Hence, cough suppressants can be tried before bedtime.
In the case of allergies, asthma, or COPD, the doctor would probably recommend an inhaler as well as any other medications to reduce the inflammation and open the narrowed passages of the lungs.
Home remedies: If not the medications, there are certain home remedies which an individual can try as a self-care measure:
- Use of a humidifier: Warm air is known to provide relief from a cough since it loosens the mucus present in the airways. But be sure to clean the humidifier first so as to avoid any kind of growth of bacteria or fungi in the water container.
- Face mask: If the cold tends to increase the coughing or worsens the shortness of breath, then it is ideal to wear a cold air face mask before you step outside of your home.
- Try to avoid any kind of lung irritants: Try not to smoke since it can aggravate the condition, and anyways, smoking is not good for one’s health. Try to wear a mask when the air is polluted or the moment you are exposed to any irritants, which can include pain or strong fumes.