Bronchitis: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Bronchitis is a common disease in life. This leaflet gives some tips for recognition and treatment as well as prevention to look out for which may indicate a more serious illness.

Definition

Bronchitis is inflammation of the main air passages to the lungs. Bronchitis is classified into two types: acute that often lasts few days and chronic that lasts a long time and usually recurs.

Causes

Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a viral infection — such as a cold — that starts in your nose or sinuses and spreads to the airways. Sometimes another bacterial infection combining with the virus or exposure to cigarette smoke or pollution may cause acute bronchitis. The elderly, infants, and young children, the people with heart or lung disease, and smokers are those who are susceptible to acute bronchitis.

Chronic bronchitis is one type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD for short. Chronic bronchitis is mainly caused by cigarette smoking and long exposure to air pollution, dust, and environmental tobacco smoke. People with Chronic bronchitis often produce excessive mucus when coughing.

Those at risk for acute bronchitis are:

  • The elderly, infants, and young children
  • Persons with heart or lung disease
  • Smokers

Symptoms:

– Acute bronchitis:

  • Cough that produces yellow or green mucus
  • Burning sensation in the chest
  • Wheezing
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Fatigue

– Chronic bronchitis:

  • Chronic cough that produces mucus
  • Wheezing, shortness of breath
  • Blue tinged lips
  • Ankle, feet, and leg swelling

Diagnosis

Your chest, back, throat, blood and sputum will be tested. Your doctor may order a chest X-ray or a lung function test to check possible pneumonia.

Treatment

Acute bronchitis will generally go away on its own within 1 week without antibiotics. Take the following tips for some relief:

  • Use a humidifier
  • Take a cough medicine that contains an expectorant
  • Drink plenty of fluids

Call your health care provider if:

  • You have a cough most days or you have a cough that returns frequently
  • You are coughing up blood
  • You have a high fever or shaking chills
  • You have a low-grade fever for 3 or more days
  • You have thick, greenish mucus, especially if it has a bad smell
  • You feel short of breath or have chest pain
  • You have an underlying chronic illness, like heart or lung disease

For any bronchitis, quit smoking to prevent the damage to your lungs.

Prevention

  • Do not smoke
  • Stay away from air pollutants.
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Get a yearly flu vaccine and a pneumococcal vaccine as directed by your doctor.

Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.

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