Diseases

Bronchitis | Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

You are likely to cough because of cold or flu. The coughing may last temporarily and end at the termination of the illness causing it. However, in some cases, it may perpetually last and can intensify with time. That is when you stand at a risk of being inflicted with Bronchitis.

This article is your first-step guide on understanding bronchitis, its causes, symptoms and treatment.

What is Bronchitis?

Bronchi are the passages in the respiratory system that help in the transportation of air to the lungs. They are two branches like structure coming out of the trachea(windpipe) and consist of small airways known as bronchioles. The bronchi walls have an important function to play to prevent the entry of dust particles into the bloodstream by secreting mucus which is able to trap these very particles.

A person who gets inflicted with Bronchitis will find an infection developing in the walls of bronchi resulting in severe inflammation. Therefore, excess mucus is secreted than usual and is the major reason as to why the patient frequently finds him/herself coughing repeatedly. Coughing is one way the body tries to get rid of this excessive mucus.

Pulmonologist (specializing in lungs related complications) have been able to classify two main types of bronchitis: Acute and Chronic.

Newborn and children are more vulnerable to Acute Bronchitis than adults. The condition develops as a result of a long period of exposure to cold or is the second stage complication of flu. The inflammation may last only temporarily (up to 4 weeks) and other symptoms may rarely be severe. The easiest way to diagnose acute bronchitis is through coughing and mucus production.

While on the other hand, Chronic Bronchitis patients have had the illness lasting for more than a year with symptoms worsening over time. This type of bronchitis often develops into Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease which seriously hampers breathing. People with COPD will have long-lasting inflammation of bronchi along with emphysema. The latter is known to damage the air sacs in lungs causing disruption in respiration.

How to know if you have Bronchitis?

As have been mentioned earlier as well, patients suffering from Bronchitis will report excessive coughing and production of mucus. The coughing is usually dry and can cause irritation within the throat. Whereas the mucus turns out to be greenish (also referred as phlegm). Most of the symptoms that characterize bronchitis are like that of the sinus infection. However, both are not the not the two names of the same illness and thereby are treated differently. In any case, if any of the following symptoms are known to exist, professional advice should be sought as early as possible:

The common symptoms of Bronchitis include:

  1. Blocked nose
  2. Chest discomfort
  3. Fatigue
  4. Fever followed by chills

It is important to note that the above-mentioned symptoms may appear for both acute and chronic bronchitis. What essentially differentiates the two is the severity and duration. However, patients diagnosed with chronic bronchitis did report shortness of breath, wheezing sound and irritated throat.

Causes

Bronchitis is a viral infection, although there have been reported cases of bacteria causing it as well. The virus that is known to inflict a person with this pulmonary illness falls in the same category of influenza virus. It can easily spread from one person to the other due to sneezing or coughing. The virus when falls out of the person starts residing in a certain area for about 24 hours. Having any sort of contact with that region can put the person at risk.

Smoking

The American Lung Association is actively working on projects to spread awareness about pulmonary related complications. According to one study concluded by ALA, in 2011, 10 million people were known to be suffering from chronic bronchitis. The major chunk of the victims were chain smokers.

Regardless of age, gender or occupation, if you smoke tobacco frequently, your chances of being inflicted with bronchitis quadruple. The substances in tobacco like tar are irritants that can trigger the inflammation of bronchi walls. Consequently, more mucus is secreted followed by hacking coughs. Smoking is also one major contributor towards emphysema which particularly targets the air sacs present in the lungs making breathing even more difficult.

Furthermore, it is also important for non-smokers to keep themselves away from tobacco smoke. Passive smokers can also be inflicted with bronchitis if they have frequent exposure to the air containing tobacco.

Other Irritants present in the Air

This is where climate change comes into play. In the fall of 2017, most of the south Asian metropolitan cities like New Delhi and Lahore were engulfed in smog. Smog is a yellowish black fog formed when there are air pollutants present. When such environmental catastrophes are witnessed, the chances of being diagnosed with bronchitis amplify.

Further to that, people should be cautious about choosing the place where they work. A long period of exposure to materials like ammonia, grain dust and chlorine may increase the vulnerability of being inflicted with chronic bronchitis or may permanently damage the lungs.

Treatment

The fortunate side of bronchitis is that professional treatment may not be required for the acute type. The home remedies may provide with sufficient treatment that can eradicate the illness in its entirety.
The symptoms of acute and chronic bronchitis appear very similar however it becomes pertinent to the person suffering from the chronic type to see a pulmonologist on urgent basis.

The question is when?

If a cough is accompanied with blood sprouts, there is a constant fever (of 100 F) for a week, there is a disruption in cognition resulting in drowsiness and breathing seems too rapid, this may indicate having a thorough treatment done by a professional.

It is also important to make sure that all these symptoms are clearly mentioned and described as most of the GPs will disregard chronic bronchitis as a simple lung infection or pneumonia. To avoid all that, having a lung function test can be carried out to avoid any sort of discrepancy or misunderstanding.

Similar to other diseases, treatment for bronchitis can be classified into two main types: synthetic treatment and home based natural remedies

Synthetic Treatment: The non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and mucolytic medicines can lessen the inflammation caused in the walls of bronchi. Inhalers and tablets having the characteristic of being bronchodilator will expand the air passage in each of the bronchi thereby aiding in the breathing process. Inhalers are commonly available in any drug store and the affordability may not be restricted to a certain class

Home Based Natural Remedies:  The home based remedies are easy to carry out in a cost effective manner and without any side effects. Including food items that are good for your lungs like broccoli, walnut, apricots can be one way of countering the effects of bronchitis. Having a routine characterized by regular exercise is essential. Exercising can keep the lungs healthy and at the same time aid in the breathing process. Working out in fresh air should always be preferred over indoor activities.

Lastly, it is imperative to quit down on smoking. The health hazards associated with smoking tobacco are innumerable and can be fatal at times. It may be difficult to realize the complications in younger age however the long term outlook for chain smokers reduce their normal working of life to nil. Thereby, to avoid all pulmonary-related illnesses, saying no to tobacco is essential!

References:

http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/copd/copd.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5005388/

http://www.lung.org/assets/documents/research/copd-trend-report.pdf

 

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