Facts About Bronchitis

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Next time you have a hacking cough that just doesn’t seem to want to go away, there’s a good chance it could be bronchitis.

Bronchitis is a condition in which the bronchial tubes become infected and inflamed.  The bronchial tubes are carry air to your lungs.  When they become infected, they swell producing a thick fluid called mucus inside of them making it difficult to breathe and usually resulting in an annoying cough.

Two types of bronchitis

There are two types of bronchitis – acute and chronic. 

1.      Acute bronchitis is more of a short duration lasting up to 5 to 10 days but coughing could last for several weeks after the infection is gone.  Occasionally people who have recurrent acute bronchitis can develop chronic bronchitis.  Acute bronchitis is most commonly caused by a viral or bacterial infection or the same viruses that colds and flu.

People can get acute bronchitis from viruses that are spread through air when people cough or by physical contact such as shaking hands with someone and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Sometimes if a person is exposed to lung irritants such as secondhand smoke, dust, fumes, vapors, and air pollution it can increase the risk for acute bronchitis.

 2.      Chronic bronchitis is a more serious long lasting condition that can occur if the lining of the bronchial tubes is constantly irritated and inflamed.  It involves excess sputum production and can last at least 3 months or longer. The primary cause of this type is smoking.  Other irritants such as being exposed to pollution, or chemicals can also develop into chronic bronchitis.

Symptoms of bronchitis

A person having acute bronchitis can experience some of the following symptoms:

·         Sore throat

·         Fever

·         Cough that may bring up clear, yellow or green mucus

·         Shortness of breath

·         Chest congestion

·         Wheezing

·         Chills

·         Body aches

Those with chronic bronchitis may have these symptoms:

·         Long-term cough with mucus

·         Mild fever

·         A runny nose

Treatment for bronchitis

Acute:

For acute bronchitis, it usually will go away on its own.  During its duration it is best to get plenty of rest, drink lots of water and fruit juices and increase the humidity in your home.  To reduce inflammation, pain or a fever, use an over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen. 

If a person has a dry cough then it is okay to use an over-the-counter cough suppressant.  But if the cough is bringing up mucus, it is not recommended to use a cough suppressant as the cough can help clear the mucus from the bronchial tubes faster. 

Chronic:

The goal of treating chronic bronchitis is to relieve symptoms, prevent complications and slow progression of the disease.  If a person smokes, quitting smoking is essential to prevent further damage to the lungs.

Other ways to treat chronic bronchitis can include:

·         Bronchodilator medications

·         Steroids

·         Antibiotics

·         Vaccines

·         Oxygen therapy

·         Surgery

·         Pulmonary rehabilitation

Keep in mind that if at any time you develop a persistent cough or experience chest pain, shortness of breath or are coughing up blood see your doctor right away to get an accurate diagnosis of the reason why.