Bronchitis: Everything You Need to Know

Bronchitis happens when the linings of bronchial tubes, which carry air to the lungs from mouth and nose, are swollen and get inflamed. People with Bronchitis are unable to clear the heavy phlegm from there bronchial tubes, which leads to wheezing.

It can be caused by microorganisms and foreign particles that might irritate the bronchial tubes. There are two types of bronchitis: acute and chronic.

Acute bronchitis is short-term, and its symptoms usually disappear after a few weeks while the latter refers to a long-lasting illness as a result of environmental factors. While acute bronchitis is followed by a viral infection or cold, chronic bronchitis keeps coming back or never really goes away. This is the reason why it is called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

To understand it better both types of bronchitis have been described in detail below:

Chronic Bronchitis can develop over time due to this damage even passive smoking can you contribute to the development of chronic bronchitis other irritants like air pollutants industrial chemical fumes and toxic gases to have the same impact repeated lungs infection can cause for the damage to the lungs making the symptoms even worse

Causes of Bronchitis

Usually, the virus that causes cold or flu is also the reason behind bronchitis. However, sometimes bacteria are also the cause of bronchitis.

Whichever be the case, the bronchial tubes swell and produce a lot of mucus. This build-up of phlegm adversely affects the amount of air that is inhaled by the person, i.e., it is reduced.

Following are the factors that affect the chances of getting a Bronchitis infection:

  • Weak immune system

In young children as well as older adults, the immune system is not as competent as that of a normal adult. With this reduced ability to fight off disease, even a common cold can make Bronchitis more likely because the immune system is already fighting to work like usual.

  • Smoking

While it is known that smoking is a menace to the society, it is only a foregone conclusion that it only does harm to the lungs whether you smoke or you live with a smoker. Both the cases increase your risk of getting bronchitis. In fact, smoking is the biggest reason behind chronic bronchitis.

  • Occupational hazard

Working in the presence of substances that can irritate your bronchial tubes increases the risk. Chemical fumes, asbestos dust, farms, animals and mining activities can increase the risk of developing a bronchial infection.

  • Air pollution Levels

Even if the city you live in has a poor quality of air or high level of pollution, you can develop Bronchitis as your lungs are exposed to a lot of pollutants and harmful elements.

Symptoms of bronchitis

Bronchitis usually follows or is preceded by a cough; thus, the symptoms are mostly related to cold and cough:

  • Chest congestion, a fullness in the chest that makes it hard to breathe in deep
  • Production of a lot of mucus which may be coloured or clear
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Body chills
  • Body Aches
  • Fatigue
  • Low fever
  • Hoarse or sore throat
  • Running and stuffy nose
  • Headache
  • Blocked nose
  • Sinus
  • Persistent cough

After long periods of persistent cough, the amount of mucus produced in the lungs gradually increases. If this goes on for long, breathing may become increasingly difficult.

Other symptoms of chronic bronchitis may include chest discomfort and bad breath.

It can get worse during any type of physical activity as the phlegm developed in the bronchial tubes restricts the airflow.

Even after the symptoms dissipate, the cough can last for a few more weeks as it takes time for your bronchial tubes to heal and for the swelling to go down. However, consult your doctor if it lasts longer than that.

Diagnosis

A physical exam is enough to tell whether you have Bronchitis or not. The doctor will ask for things like the duration of a cough and the colour of mucus and other symptoms. After that, a lung check-up is usually enough to determine bronchitis.

In the later stages, the skin may develop a bluish colour due to the lack of oxygen. This decreased level of oxygen leads to oedema.

Chronic Bronchitis is most commonly caused by cigarette smoking. In fact, over 90% of patients of chronic bronchitis have a history of heavy smoking. Inhaling cigarette smoke temporary paralyses the lung cilia, which in extended periods can damage it extensively, increasing the frequency of infection. Repeated lungs infection can cause further damage to the lungs, making the symptoms even worse.

Treatment

Acute bronchitis usually goes away within a couple of weeks. As it is a viral illness, not many medicines will help you in getting better sooner. If caused by bacteria, which does not happen often, you might be prescribed antibiotics by your doctor.

If you have allergies or asthma, you might be prescribed an inhaler which will help open up the respiratory tract, making it easier to breathe.

While it takes its time to subside, you can:

  • Drink a lot of water
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Take pain relievers, usually Over-The-Counter (OTC) like Ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin, etc.
  • You can also use a hot shower, humidifier or hot steam to loosen up the mucus
  • In case of chronic bronchitis bronchodilators and theophylline is used
  • If bronchodilators and theophylline do not work, steroids are prescribed
  • Pulmonary Rehabilitation helps in improving breathing and overall well-being. It includes exercise, diet and breathing strategies for proper management.

Prevention

Bronchitis can be prevented, at least the chronic version of it. There are some ways of reducing your chances:

  • avoid cigarette smoke
  • wash your hands
  • wear masks if you happen to work at the place where toxic gases and chemical fumes are present.
  • If you are visiting a highly-polluted city, then wear a mask all the time
  • Also, get your flu vaccine since most cases of Bronchitis originate from the flu virus

To reduce the risk of bronchitis is to avoid or stop smoking. Once you quit smoking, your lungs will begin to heal, and you will be able to breathe better. Bronchitis is easily manageable, you just need expert consultation in order to do so.