What is bronchitis?
Bronchitis is an inflammation (swelling, redness, pain) on the inner walls (lining) of your bronchial tubes, which carry air to your lungs. Bronchitis is often associated with the presence of cough (with mucus), which can be discolored depending on the type of bronchitis.
Bronchitis may be either acute or chronic.
Acute or short-term bronchitis is common and usually is caused by a viral or bacterial infection. It is a type of respiratory infection symptomatically similar to cold or flu.
It could last for 10 to 14 days usually, causing symptoms to show for up to three weeks.
Smoking can negatively affect the recovery and treatment of acute bronchitis.
The first sign of acute bronchitis is the presence of dry cough with or without small amounts of white mucus may be coughed up if the bronchitis is viral. If the color of the mucus changes to green or yellow, it may be a sign of a bacterial infection.
Chronic bronchitis is a more serious and long term condition, with a constant irritation or inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes due to primary respiratory infection or exposure to smoke, dust, toxic gases, air pollution or other allergic substances in the air can cause allergic bronchitis, smoking is a cause too.
Chronic bronchitis can cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the long term.
People at risk of chronic bronchitis are those with a family history of bronchitis, having asthma and allergies, smokers, and some others with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
There are some important things to remember about bronchitis so you can protect, prevent, and maintain your good health some of these are listed below:
In cases of acute bronchitis, one might have cold-like symptoms like:
- Lack Of Energy.
- Mild Headache Or Body Aches.
- Sore Throat And Cough.
- Fever And Chills.
These symptoms usually improve in about a week; you may have a nagging cough that can last for a few days to many weeks.
Is bronchitis contagious?
Yes! Acute bronchitis can be contagious because it is caused by a virus or bacterial infection.
Chronic bronchitis is not likely to be contagious because it is a condition caused by long-term irritation of airways and allergies.
Chronic bronchitis is a productive cough that lasts at least three months, recurring bouts can occurring for at minimum of two consecutive years.
Sometimes an acute infection occurs on top of chronic bronchitis; in that case condition of the patient becomes worse and requires immediate medical attention.
Severe symptoms may need medical attention:
See your doctor if:
- Cough lasts more than three weeks.
- With wheezing or shortness of breath.
- Coughing prevents you from sleep.
- Fever higher than 38 Celsius.
- Production of discolored mucus.
- Produces blood in mucus.
Causative agents: Viruses (colds and flu/influenza), Bacteria.
Note: Antibiotics mainly works in cases of bacterial infections as they don’t kill viruses, antibiotics aren’t useful in most cases of bronchitis (viral cases).
Causative agents: Cigarette smoking, Air pollution, dust particles, and toxic gases in the environment, other allergic agents, genetic factors.
Factors that increase risk of bronchitis include:
- Low resistance: Older adults, infants, and young children have greater vulnerability to infection as they usually have lower resistance towards allergies and comparatively weaker immunity.
- Low resistance towards bronchitis may also result from another acute illness, such as a cold, or from a chronic condition that compromises your immune system.
- Exposure to irritants on the job: Risk of developing bronchitis is greater if you work in close contact with certain irritant chemicals like paints, plastic, etc. fumes and toxic gases around you become potent lung irritants, also grains, pollens or textiles. If you are exposed to pollutants and allergens.
- Cigarette smoke: People who smoke (active smoker) or who live with a smoker (passive smoking) are at higher risk of both acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis.
- Gastric reflux (GERD): Repeated Gastric reflux or heartburn can irritate your throat and damage it and can make you more prone to developing bronchitis.
Acute bronchitis is contagious and can spread like a viral or bacterial infection;
Transmission is possible for another person through droplets when coughing.
A person should take the following precautions to reduce the transmission risk:
- Cough into a tissue or use a mask while suffering from an infection.
- Wash hands often
- Take extra care around those with a weakened immune system like young children, older people, people with respiratory illness, etc.
When to see a doctor?
- A person should see a doctor if they have the following:
- A cough that lasts more than 3 weeks
- A fever that lasts 3 days or longer
- Difficulty Breathing, chest pains, or both
- Drowsiness or confusion
- Blood in their mucus
- Anyone with an existing lung or heart condition.
- Repeated bouts of infections/ worsening of symptoms
Some prevention methods can be used to reduce the risk of acute bronchitis these includes:
- Avoiding or quit smoking.
- Washing the hands often to limit exposure to germs and bacteria.
- Asking about vaccinations to protect from pneumonia and the flu
- Find out more about the flu and how to prevent it.
It is not always possible to prevent chronic bronchitis, although several things can reduce the risk.
- Avoiding respiratory irritants, such as smoke, dust, vapors, fumes, and air pollution.
- Wearing a mask to cover the nose and mouth during high pollution levels.
- Exposure to pesticides may increase the risk.
Although a single episode of acute bronchitis usually is not a cause for concern, it can lead to pneumonia in some people, but repeated bouts of bronchitis may mean that you have a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and thus need special medical attention.
A doctor will carry out a physical examination, using a stethoscope to listen for unusual sounds in the lungs.
They may also ask an individual about their symptoms:
- Especially about cough and their medical history or any other pre-existing respiratory difficulties.
- Any recent infection of cold or flu or allergic reaction.
- Whether they smoke or not?
- Exposure to passive smoking, dust, fumes, or air pollution, etc.
Diagnosis for bronchitis includes the following:
- Checking the oxygen levels in the blood: This is done with a sensor that goes on your toe or finger.
- Pulmonary function test or lung function test: done with the help of Spirometer which measures how much air your lungs can hold and how quickly you can get the air out of your lungs. To check on the functioning of the lungs.
- Blood tests: measure the amount of carbon dioxide and oxygen in your blood and check for the presence of any infection.
- Chest X-ray. A chest X-ray can help in determining the condition of lungs in case of smokers, and to check for the presence of any other respiratory illness like pneumonia.
- Sputum tests. Sputum is the thick mucus that forms due to an infection or inflammation of the throat. It can be tested to check if you have any infection that could be treated by antibiotics. Sputum can also be tested for signs of allergies.
In the basic treatment of acute bronchitis, doctors may advise to:
- Take rest
- Drink fluids
- Take over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin. It will help relieve a cough and ease any accompanying pain. In time, acute bronchitis will go away, often without treatment.
- The symptoms of chronic bronchitis may improve quickly for a while but they will come back and become worse again if there is exposure to triggers like smoke and other allergens.
Cough medicine: Coughing is useful for removing mucus from the bronchial tubes, but it can keep you up at night, medicine like cough suppressants or anti-tussive can help bring relief to the night time coughing and help you get some rest.
As most cases of bronchitis are caused by viral infections, antibiotics aren’t that effective. If Antibiotics are prescribed primarily for bacterial infections only.
Other medications that can bring relief to patients are:
- Bronchodilators: Bronchodilators widen/open the blocked passage of bronchial tubes and help clear out mucus.
- Mucolytics or expectorants: Mucolytics break thick obstructing mucus in the airways thinning of mucus makes it easier to cough up sputum and helps in easier breathing.
- Oxygen therapy: Due to obstructive breathing or in case insufficient oxygen due to lung infection artificial oxygen supply can be used to treat the severe cases.
- Anti-inflammatory and steroid drugs: These can help reduce inflammation (pain, swelling, redness) that can cause tissue damage.
- Antibiotics: Most cases of bronchitis are caused by viral infections, where antibiotics aren’t that effective.
However, if you have a bacterial infection, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics. Taking antibiotics can prevent one from a secondary infection like an acute infection over the existing chronic one in some cases.
Do not take antibiotics unless you have bacteria as the cause of an illness. The reason for this concern is about antibiotic resistance, as the overuse of antibiotics makes infecting agents antibiotic-resistant making it harder to treat an infection in the long term.
- Other medications. If you have respiratory allergies, asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), your doctor may recommend an inhaler and other medications to reduce inflammation and open narrowed passages in your lungs.
Can chronic bronchitis be prevented?
Most cases of chronic bronchitis are caused due to smoking so the best way to prevent it is to not smoke. It’s also important to try to avoid lung irritants such as passive smoking, air pollution, chemical fumes, and dust.
What are the treatments for chronic bronchitis?
There is no cure for chronic bronchitis. However, treatments can help relieve symptoms, halt the progress of the disease, and improve your ability to do daily activities.
- Quit smoking if you are a smoker.
- Avoiding passive smoking and places where you might breathe in other toxic lung irritants.
- Follow a specific diet plan and take nutritious food. It can prevent or decrease the probability of inviting other health problems.
- Keep yourself fit and active.
Also, inquire how much and what type of physical activity is best for you. Breathing exercise can strengthen your chest muscles that help you breathe and improve your overall wellness. Breathing exercises can be really useful for you.
If you have chronic bronchitis, keeping your emergency solutions ready and within reach is very important.
- It is important to know when and where to get help with your symptoms.
- Call in the emergency health care provider if your symptoms are getting worse or if you have signs of an infection, such as a fever.
- You should get emergency care if you have severe symptoms, such as difficulty in breathing, catching your breath, or talking.
- Always keep your inhaler and medication with you.
Home remedies and Self-care
To help you feel better, you may want to try the following self-care measures:
- Avoid contact with lung irritants such as pesticides, toxic gases, certain fumes, dust, etc.
- Don’t smoke. Wear a mask while traveling in polluted air or if you’re exposed to irritants, such as paint or household cleaners with strong fumes.
- Use a humidifier. It can improve airflow by loosening mucus and give relief from wheezing. (Humidifier and vaporizers give warm, moist air these vapors help relieve coughs and loosens mucus in your airways. Medicines are added sometimes to the vaporizers for instant relief from cough. Clean the humidifiers to avoid the growth of bacteria and fungi in the water container.
Exercises and other strategies
For treating bronchitis include the following:
- Exercising to strengthen the chest muscles to help breathing.
- Improving breathing techniques through pulmonary rehabilitation.
- Doing breathing exercises, such as pursed-lip breathing, can help slow down breathing so that you can breathe deeply, and make it more effective.
- If cold air aggravates your cough and causes shortness of breath, put on a cold-air face mask before you go outside.
Should people exercise when they have bronchitis?
- For acute bronchitis gives fatigue it is best to rest it out.
- As for chronic bronchitis, it is useful to maintain daily exercise habits,
That includes breathing exercises and light cardiac and muscle strengthening exercises moreover you should consult your doctor before taking on any exclusive fitness regime.