Bronchitis is the inflammation of the bronchial tubes lining. Bronchial tubes transport air from and to the lungs. People with bronchitis mostly cough thickened mucus, and it can at times be discolored. Bronchitis can either be chronic or acute. Acute bronchitis is quite common and often develops from some respiratory infection such as a cold. On the other hand, chronic bronchitis is a serious condition and requires medical attention. It is a constant inflammation or irritation of the bronchial tubes lining often caused by smoking.
Causes and Risk Factors of Bronchitis
- Lung infection
This causes acute bronchitis, 90% of which are viral infections. When you have repeated acute bronchitis attacks, it irritates and weakens your airways and may eventually cause chronic bronchitis.
- Industrial pollution
People continually exposed to fumes and dust, for example metal molders, grain handlers and coal miners, often have above normal levels of chronic bronchitis. However, the chief cause of chronic bronchitis is long-term use of cigarettes. Its symptoms get worse when exposed to high concentrations of pollutants like sulfur dioxide.
If you smoke and then come down with acute bronchitis, recovering will be much harder. Each cigarette damages the cilia in your lungs. Cilia are the tiny hair-like structures found in your lungs. These tiny hair-like structures are responsible for brushing out excess mucus, irritants and debris you have inhaled. When you continue smoking, cilia are unable to properly function thus increasing your chances of getting chronic bronchitis. If you are a heavy smoker, the cilia may ultimately stop functioning. This will clog the lungs with mucus and your lungs’ airways may end up permanently damaged because they will be vulnerable to bacterial and viral infections.
Risk Factors of Bronchitis
- Weakened immune system: This may come as a result of another acute illness like a cold. It can also result from a chronic condition which weakens your immune system and increases your risk of bronchitis.
- Exposure to irritants: You are at a higher risk of developing bronchitis if you work around lung irritants like textiles or grains, or if you are exposed to some chemical fumes.
- Gastric reflux: If you have severe heartburn, and it is in repeated bouts, your throat may get irritated, and you may become prone to getting bronchitis.
Symptoms of Bronchitis
For either chronic or acute bronchitis the symptoms and signs may include:
- Hoarse throat
- Nasal congestion
- Appetite loss
- A dry cough even after an infection has cleared up
- Difficulty breathing and shortness of breath
- Fever (low-grade)
- Expelling phlegm that may be semi-fluid and sticky when coughing
- Persistent cough that may or may not produce mucus
- Chest pain
If the bronchitis is chronic, there may be additional symptoms like swollen ankles and feet, recurring fevers and cold and blue lips (it is caused because the body lacks oxygen).
When to Call a Doctor
Get in touch with a doctor if the cough:
- Lasts for over 3 weeks
- Keeps you awake throughout the night
- Comes with a fever of over 38oC (100.4 F)
- Make you produce discolored mucus
- Brings about shortness of breath or wheezing
- Produces blood
Natural Treatment for Bronchitis
Bronchitis is a respiratory disease that can be cured or at least eased by making lifestyle changes and applying home remedies.
1. Get Enough Sleep
Since bronchitis is a lung infection, you may be feeling extremely tired. Heed to your body’s desire and sleep especially the first couple of days when you find it difficult to breatheand the chest feels heavy. Your lungs require time to heal.
2. Keep Yourself Hydrated
It is important that you remain hydrated, especially when your body is fighting infections. Drink warm fluids to soothe the sore throat andalso to make it easier for you to expel the phlegm. You also can use a humidifier, boil hot water on the stove, or take a steamy bath or shower to help you breathe in moist air and keep your lungs hydrated with humid and warm air.
3. Apply Hot Compress
Applying hot compress is one of the very effective treatment for bronchitis. When you feel pain and are heavy in the chest area each time you cough, applying heat can ease that pressure. Take a hot compress and press it against your clothing on the chest or even take a warm shower or bath.
4. Avoid Irritants
If you have bronchitis and you inhale smoke, it brings out painful coughing fits. Avoid smoking and inhaling second-hand smoke. Stay away from places with lots of lung irritants such as high-traffic streets, areas with strong smell of chemicals like salons and factories.
Medical Treatment for Bronchitis
If the home remedies do not prove to be effective in relieving your bronchitis symptoms, you need to seek medical advice and treatments. Some of the medical treatments may include:
Although bronchitis caused by viral infections that antibiotics are not effective, your physician may still prescribe antibiotics if she or he thinks that your infection is caused by bacteria.
2. Cough Medications
It is advisable that you do not suppress a cough that produces mucus because coughing is the easiest way to remove irritants from your air passages and lungs. If the coughing is stopping you from sleeping, try taking cough suppressants.
3. Pain Relievers
If body aches like chest pain become unbearable, regular doses of pain relievers like acetaminophen or aspirin may be used. These are not used to get rid of your bronchitis but to ease the pain.
4. Pulmonary Rehabilitation for Bronchitis
If the bronchitis you have is chronic, you may require long-term therapy, which will help strengthen the weakened lungs. Pulmonary rehabilitation is a breathing exercise program conducted by a therapist. The sessions are one-on-one, and the therapist designs an exercise plan that slowly builds up the lung’s capacity while allowing you to breathe more easily.
5. Other Medications
If you have chronic COPD, asthma or allergies, your physician may prescribe medications that open lung passages that have been narrowed and reduce inflammation such as an inhaler.
Check out this video about bronchitis, what causes it, the risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment for bronchitis: