What is Bronchitis?
Bronchitis is a health condition where the bronchial tube or tube that carries air to the lungs experiences inflammation and swelling. Bronchitis also usually causes a severe cough with phlegm.
There are two types of bronchitis, namely:
- Acute bronchitis is the more common type of bronchitis. Symptoms may last for several weeks, but usually, they no longer cause problems after that.
- Chronic bronchitis is the more severe type of bronchitis. This type of bronchitis may keep recurring or not go away completely
Causes of Bronchitis
In both acute and chronic bronchitis, your body will fight off bacteria. This is what causes the bronchial tubes to swell and produce more phlegm. This narrows your airflow – making it difficult for you to breathe.
Chronic bronchitis may be caused by:
- Frequent exposure to polluted air and other things that can affect your lungs’ health, such as chemical fumes or dust
- Prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke
You run a high risk to develop bronchitis of either type if:
- You are a smoker
- You have asthma and allergies
- You have a weak immune system. This usually occurs in older adults or elderly people with chronic illnesses, as well as in infants and children.
Meanwhile, you have an increased risk of developing chronic bronchitis if:
- You are a female smoker. Female smokers are more likely to develop bronchitis than male smokers
- Anyone in your family has a history of lung disease
When to See a Doctor for Bronchitis
You should consult your doctor immediately if your cough:
- Produces blood
- Produces discolored mucus
- Keeps you up at night (difficulty sleeping due to constant coughing)
- Lasts for more than three weeks
- Causes chest pain
- Makes it difficult for you to speak after coughing
- Is accompanied by sudden weight loss
You should also consult a doctor if you experience any of the following:
- Slight fever and chills
- Fever above 38 degrees Celsius
- Wheezing or shortness of breath
Your doctor may diagnose bronchitis by performing a physical exam and examining your symptoms. Your doctor will ask about how long you have been coughing and the characteristics of the mucus. Your doctor will also listen to your lungs as you breathe using a stethoscope.
Possible tests that your doctor perform may include:
- Check the oxygen level in your blood using a sensor placed on your toes or fingers
- Perform lung performance tests with a device called a spirometer. You will be asked to breathe/blow into the device to see if there are signs of emphysema (a type of chronic lung disease where the oxygen sacs in your lungs have been damaged) or asthma.
- Perform a chest x-ray to see if there are signs of pneumonia or other illness that might be causing the cough
- Perform blood tests to see if there is an infection, as well as to measure the oxygen level in the blood
- Perform sputum tests to make sure that the cough is not caused by bacterial infections. One similar disease is ‘whooping cough’, in which the sufferer has a very loud cough that makes it difficult for them to breathe. If your doctor suspects you have whooping cough or the flu, he or she may perform a swab technique test
Symptoms of Bronchitis
Acute and chronic bronchitis have similar symptoms of breathing problems. Symptoms may include:
- Chest feels full or clogged.
- Cough that contains clear, white, yellow, or green mucus
- Shortness of breath
- Wheezing sounds
Symptoms of acute bronchitis may also include:
- Chest soreness
- Persistent runny nose
- Sore throat
Even if the symptoms of acute bronchitis have disappeared, coughing can last up to several weeks. If you keep experiencing persistent cough, you may have another illness.
In chronic bronchitis, coughing can last for about three months and recur for at least two consecutive years.
Treatment for Bronchitis
Treatment options for acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis are different. In most cases of acute bronchitis, the symptoms will go away on their own within a few weeks. You can treat acute bronchitis with home remedies, such as by drinking water frequently and avoiding cigarettes or secondhand smoke.
If your bronchitis is caused by bacteria, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. If you have asthma or allergies, or if you are dealing with a wheezing sound, your doctor may provide you with an inhaler. Inhalers help clear up your airways to help you breathe more easily.
In chronic bronchitis, treatment aims to resolve your symptoms with:
- Medications such as antibiotics, inflammation/irritation relievers, and bronchodilators to open up the respiratory tract
- A device to help produce softer mucus
- Oxygen therapy to help you breathe better
- An exercise program to help you breathe better and exercise more often
Treatment Cost for Bronchitis
Treatment cost for bronchitis may vary, depending on the choice of hospital, and the type of bronchitis you have.
For more details regarding the estimated treatment cost for bronchitis, hospital recommendations, and making doctor’s appointments, you can contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Bronchitis
To reduce your risk of developing bronchitis, you are advised to:
- Avoid cigarette or secondhand smoke
- Get the flu vaccine
- Make sure your pertussis vaccine is on schedule
- Wash your hands regularly
- Wear a mask when if you are under circumstances or situations that may affect your lungs’ health, such as when you are painting
Home Remedies for Bronchitis
The following are several home care treatments for bronchitis, including:
- Drink 8-12 glasses of water per day. This will help minimize mucus production and make it easier for you to cough it out
- Get enough rest
- Take pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. Remember not to give aspirin to children, you can take acetaminophen instead
- Use a humidifier or hot steam to help soften mucus
- Take cough relievers such as guaifenesin during the day. This type of medicine can help soften the mucus. Consult your doctor before giving cough medicine to children