Bronchitis also known as 'Chest Cold' is a viral infection of the lungs which results in inflammation of the inner lining of the bronchial tubes/ducts. The bronchial tubes are the air tubes or air ducts which carries oxygenated and deoxygenated air to and from our lungs.
Bronchitis is often characterized by coughing up thick, discolored mucus. As bronchitis is a viral lung infection it is contagious and can be transmitted from one person to another.
Is Bronchitis Similar to Pneumonia?
Bronchitis is often confused with another lung infection 'Pneumonia'. Both bronchitis and pneumonia are the lung infection which results in the inflammation of the lungs. The symptoms, signs, and causes of both of these lung infections are also similar, which is why many people often confuse the two with each other. However, these two are very much different diseases and they have different treatment which is why it is important to understand the very difference between these two diseases. If you are person who likes to cure yourself using home remedies, you should know each and everything about Bronchitis so that you may know about the cure and the treatment. This article will fill you with each and everything you need to know about Bronchitis.
Bronchitis and pneumonia are two different lung diseases and has different diagnosis and treatment. Symptoms of pneumonia include persistent high fever, cough with green or yellow mucus, chills or sometimes shaking, shortness of breath and sharp or intense chest pain. Some of these symptoms are similar to acute bronchitis as well.
However, pneumonia is a bacterial infection rather than a viral infection. Unlike Bronchitis, Pneumonia is not contagious and can be treated with antibiotics and because it is a bacterial infection it moves fast and requires immediate proper attention & treatment.
Types of Bronchitis:
On the basis of the severity of the infection, and causes, bronchitis has been classified into types. Bronchitis can either be 'Acute Bronchitis' or 'Chronic Bronchitis'. Not only the symptoms and causes of these two are different but the treatment for acute bronchitis may also be different from chronic bronchitis. Therefore, it is important to know about the basic difference between the types of Bronchitis. Following are the most commonly occurring types of Bronchitis:
- Acute Bronchitis: Acute bronchitis also called as the 'Chest Cold' is a mild or less severe form of bronchitis or inflammation of bronchial tubes. Acute bronchitis is a very common form of bronchitis and it is often triggered by a cold or some other respiratory infection.
- Acute bronchitis can last for a week or 10 days and it has no lasting effects on the lungs or any other part of the body. Although, in some cases, the cough may prolong for days or even weeks. In some extreme cases, if Acute Bronchitis goes unchecked it can also turn to Chronic Bronchitis which is very dangerous health situation. Therefore, if you feel like acute bronchitis prolonging, it is recommended that you consult a doctor and get attention towards your situation.
- Chronic Bronchitis: Chronic Bronchitis is a severe and serious form of bronchitis and which is listed among the 'Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD). Chronic bronchitis is characterized by a 'prouctive coughing' followed by constant irritation and inflammation inside the lining of the bronchial tubes.
- The major cause of chronic bronchitis is smoking and sometimes excessive alcohol consumption also contributes to the development of chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is a serious medical condition and does not go easily. It keeps coming back and therefore it requires proper treatment. Passive smoking also contributes towards chronic bronchitis hence, one should be careful and should not stay in places where people are smoking in groups because even if you are not smoking, you are equally effected.
What are the Symptoms of Bronchitis?
Whether its acute bronchitis or chronic bronchitis, the signs and symptoms are similar. If you are suffering from either type of bronchitis, you may experience any of the two or more of the following symptoms:
- Production of mucus (sputum) - Clear, white, yellowish gray, green or rarely streaked with blood
- Shortness of breath
- Slight fever and chills
- Chest discomfort
- Clogged chest or chest congestion
- Wheezing or whistling sound while breathing.
- Mild headache which can be worse in case you are suffering from chronic bronchitis.
- Body aches.
- Feeling wiped out.
- Runny or stuffy nose.
- Sore throat.
In the case of acute bronchitis, you may experience coughing even when after you have recovered from the infection. But if the coughing gets worse or does not go away after a few days or weeks, there are strong chances that you might be suffering from chronic bronchitis.
What are the Causes and Risk Factors of Bronchitis?
In general, acute bronchitis is a lung infection which is caused by a virus. This virus is the same which causes common cold or flu in humans. Very rarely, bronchitis may be caused by bacteria. Whether bronchitis is caused by a virus or bacteria, our immune system fights off the germs to protect our lungs from any infection. As a result of this reaction, the inner lining of the bronchial tubes get swelled and the production of mucus increases.
Due to increased mucus production, the opening of air ducts gets smaller and it interrupts/hinders the normal inflow & outflow of air to & from our lungs. The consequence of this obstruction is the difficulty to breathe.
On the other hand, chronic bronchitis is caused by cigarette smoking, dust, air pollution, toxic gasses in the surrounding environment.
Risk Factors of Bronchitis:
There are certain factors which increase the risk of bronchitis, both acute or chronic. These factors include:
- Cigarette smoke. Not only smoking a cigarette increases the risk of acute or chronic bronchitis for the smoker but the smoke produced by the cigarette is also injurious to other people who are inhaling it. Cigarette smoke is the major cause of chronic bronchitis.
- Low resistance. People who have low resistance against diseases, allergies or any other illness or has immune system deficiencies are more likely to get infected with bronchitis. Infants, young children, and older adults have a weak immune system or low resistance, and therefore they are more vulnerable to bronchitis infection.
- Exposure to irritants on the job. People who work in a textile, grains, mines or chemical industries have a high risk of getting bronchitis. Because they are exposed to harmful and toxic chemical and air components. These chemical fumes or toxic substances in the air works as a lung irritant and therefore can trigger the development of bronchitis in the lungs.
- Gastric reflux. Repeated gastric or acidic reflux is another factor that can increase the chances of bronchitis infection. Gastric reflux causes irritation of the throat and it makes our lungs more susceptible & prone to the bronchitis infection.
When to See the Doctor?
If you are experiencing a cough that:
- Lasts or prolong for more than three weeks.
- Disturbs your sleep routine or prevents you from sleeping.
- Is followed by a body temperature higher than 38 C or 100.4 F.
- Is accompanied by discolored mucus.
- Brings up blood.
- Causes shortness of breath.
- Causes wheezing or whistle sound while breathing.
- Causes sharp or intense chest pain.
- Causes unexpected weight loss.
- Causes foul tasting fluid in your mouth.
Then you must see your doctor and talk about your problems. These signs of symptoms are the indications that you might be suffering from acute or chronic bronchitis.
Treatment for Bronchitis:
Most people suffer from acute bronchitis and it usually goes away on its own within a couple of weeks. But if the bronchitis is caused by bacteria, which is a rare case, the infection is treated with the antibiotics. These antibiotics must only be taken on the advice of the doctor.
Moreover, if you are suffering from other medical conditions or infections which obstructs your normal breathing such as asthma, allergies, or even the wheezing, your doctor may also recommend the inhaler. The inhaler helps to ease the difficulty to breathe, by opening up the airways of the lungs and allowing them air to flow in and out of the lungs.
Other Remedial Options for Treating Bronchitis:
In addition to medical treatment there are other options or methods which can help you to prevent or reduce the symptoms and effects of bronchitis.
- Drink up a lot of water - drinking at least 8 to 12 glasses of water a day helps to thin the mucus produced in a result of bronchitis.
- Get lots of rest when you are suffering from bronchitis.
- Take pain relievers or pain killers over the counter - Aspirin, Naproxen, Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen to relive the pains and fever.
- Take steam - Warm and moist air through vaporizers or humidifier opens up the blocked air passages of the lungs.
- Use Cough Medicines - You can take medicines like expectorant such as guaifenosin to prevent or reduce coughing.
- Follow a healthy and proper diet.
- Use of pursed lip breathing.
- Soothing sore throat.
- Use of nutrients and dietray supplements.
Why is it Important to get Treatment for Bronchitis?
Although acute bronchitis is a mild lung infection that gets better on its own with in a couple of weeks but sometimes, even the acute bronchitis can lead you to other severe and serious health problems. If the bronchitis whether its acute or chronic left untreated, it can lead to complications such as pneumonia and other respiratory infections.
Moreover, repeated bouts of acute or chronic bronchitis may also lead to other chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases such as asthma or emphysema. Other problems that might be caused by untreated bronchitis are the weakening of lungs tissues, sleeping problems, headaches, body aches, loss of weight and fatigue etc.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms such as coughing up thick, discolored mucus, fever & chills, chest pain, wheezing etc. then your doctor may require a physical examination to confirm whether you are suffering from bronchitis or not. The physical examination includes listening to your lungs while breathing to check the wheezing sound produced by the lungs and measuring fever.
But sometimes, usually, in the case where the coughing and other symptoms get worse, your doctor may undergo additional tests and examination too, such as:
- Monitoring the oxygen level in blood by using a sensor on a toe or finger.
- A lung function test that require you to breathe inside a device called as spirometer to check emphysema or asthma.
- A chest X-ray to check whether there are signs of pneumonia or any other lung infection which also results in coughing.
- Testing and examining the mucus to rule other diseases and infections caused by bacteria such as whooping cough. In case, you are also experiening cold or flu, your doctor may also ask you for the samples of your nasal swab.
- Other blood tests.
How to Prevent the Risk of Bronchitis?
There are certain preventive measures that can reduce the chances or risk of bronchitis. These include:
- Avoiding cigarette smoking or living around someone who smokes.
- Getting flu vaccines.
- Ensuring that your pertussis vaccine is up to date.
- Avoid inhaling the air polluted with chemical fumes and toxic substances.
- Wearing face or surgical masks to prevent inhalation of dust and smoke in the air.
- Washing your hands often.
How long Does it Take to Cure from Bronchitis?
The duration of recovery depends upon the condition, type as well as the treatment you are getting for the bronchitis. But usually, it take around 2-3 weeks to recover from acute bronchitis, while the coughing takes more than 2-3 weeks to completely go away. But if you are suffering from chronic bronchitis, it may require a month or more to be fully recovered.