Bronchitis is an inflammation of the air passageways (bronchi) to your lungs. When these bronchial tubes become infected, thick mucus forms inside them. This makes it very difficult to breathe. The number one symptom of bronchitis is a cough. This might make you expel phlegm or mucus. You may also notice wheezing too when you breathe.
Types of bronchitis
There are two main types of bronchitis. The first type of bronchitis is called Acute Bronchitis. Acute bronchitis is bronchitis that lasts only a few weeks. The second type of bronchitis is Chronic Bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is bronchitis that persists for months. Acute bronchitis is almost always caused by a virus. Even if you notice thick yellow or green phlegm, antibiotics are not going to make you get better faster.
Anytime someone suffers from bronchitis, damage is done to the bronchi and they need time to heal. Smokers should limit cigarettes they smoke or quit completely. Continuing to damage your bronchi over time increases your chances of permanent damage and disorders. COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is caused, in part, from repeated and lengthy damage to the bronchi.
Infectious bronchitis occurs most often during the winter months. Bacterial bronchitis almost always follows an upper respiratory infection.
Children who have asthma, are exposed to cigarette smoke, have allergies, enlarged tonsils/adenoids or repeated sinus infections are more at risk for bronchitis then others.
Bronchitis can also be caused by environmental pollutant exposure.
The symptoms of bronchitis come on at first much like a cold. Mild fever, body aches and a runny nose. A cough then presents. The cough from bronchitis can last several weeks, even after other symptoms disappear.
A doctor can diagnose bronchitis based on the symptoms alone or he can order special tests. A doctor may want to send some of your mucus to the lab. Obtaining a sample is simple. The doctor will have you or your child cough until some mucus is produced. The mucus is then spit into a cup to be sent to the lab for testing. This can also tell your doctor if you have a bacterial o viral infection. Your doctor may also want to rule out pneumonia. He/she may also order a chest x-ray.
Treating bronchitis depends on the severity. If a bacterial infection is present, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics. If the infection is viral, plenty of fluids and rest will probably be recommended. Some doctors may suggest the use of a cool mist humidifier.
If the infection or difficulty breathing is severe enough, a doctor may prescribe a bronchodialating nebulizer treatment or a corticosteroid inhaler. Bronchodialators work by opening up the air passage ways. Corticosteriods work by reducing the swelling in the lungs. Inhaled substances work directly on the source of the problem.
While you can’t 100% prevent getting bronchitis, there are several steps you can take to minimize the chances:
-Avoid smoking or second hand smoke exposure
-Ask your doctor for a flu shot yearly and for young children, ask your pediatrician about the pneumonia vaccine
-Wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizers
-If you notice everyone around you is coughing and sneezing, it might be a good idea to wear a face mask
Most cases of bronchitis clear up on its own without seeking medical attention. Lots of fluids and rest, along with limiting exposure to irritants such as cigarette smoke is the best treatment for bronchitis.
If you or your child starts coughing up blood, a fever lasts for several days or the shortness of breath interferes with sleep and/or activities-call your doctor.
If any symptom becomes severe, seek attention at the nearest hospital or call 911.