A Concise Guide to Bronchitis

Bronchitis is an increasingly common medical condition in the United States. Scroll below to learn more about the signs and symptoms of bronchitis and how best to treat it:

According to reports by the CDC, approximately nine million Americans are diagnosed with bronchitis each year with as many as 90 percent requiring treatment by a medical professional. In addition to the troubling physical symptoms that can occur with this infection, many adults affected by bronchitis a significant amount of rest in order to recover. The information below will discuss bronchitis in more detail, as well as cover effective treatment options.

What is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is an illness marked by inflammation of the bronchial tubes. The bronchial tubes are responsible for carrying oxygen to and from the lungs. According to the Mayo Clinic, bronchitis often follows an infection with a cold or flu virus. In other cases, individuals can develop chronic bronchitis which signifies an ongoing irritation of the lining of the bronchial tubes. Those who become ill with bronchitis will usually recover without lasting effects in about ten days. However, the hacking cough that accompanies bronchitis can last for weeks.

Symptoms and Causes

The symptoms associated with bronchitis can vary from person to person. Additionally, not all symptoms need to be present in order to confirm a diagnosis of bronchitis. However, the following list covers the most common symptoms associated with this illness:

  • Cough producing thick mucus that is often yellow or green in color
  • Difficulty breathing due to airway restriction and irritation
  • Fever and chills
  • Pain or discomfort in the chest
  • Fatigue

Unfortunately, many of the same bacteria and viruses that cause the cold and flu can also result in the development of bronchitis. The following list covers the most common causes of this prevalent illness:

  • Viruses including various forms of the influenza virus
  • Rhinovirus or other basic viruses related to the common cold
  • Various forms of bacteria related to upper respiratory illnesses
  • Air pollution and dust
  • Smoking cigarettes

The following list details some of the most common risk factors for the development of bronchitis:

  • Having a job that requires you to work with chemicals or other irritants
  • Smoking or being around second-hand smoke
  • Suffering from repeated bouts of heartburn or acid reflux
  • Having a low functioning immune system or becoming ill with a cold or flu virus

If you are among those more inclined to develop upper respiratory infections, it would be helpful to avoid lung irritants such as harsh chemicals, smoke, dust, and other commonly recognized irritants that can lead to lung infections. In some cases, bronchitis sufferers can develop what is referred to as chronic bronchitis. This means that the symptoms associated with the condition last much longer than normal and repeated infections occur on an ongoing basis.

Pathology

Your bronchitis may be acute, meaning brief, chronic, or persistent. The type of condition that you experience is closely related to its cause:

  • Most acute bronchitis cases are related to infections involving bacteria and viruses. Exposure to air pollution, tobacco smoke, and other people who already have bronchitis can also be risk factors.
  • The majority of chronic bronchitis cases occur among patients who smoke tobacco. Some people increase their risk by getting exposed to hazardous occupational conditions on a consistent basis.

Other common risk factors for chronic conditions include being male, obese, or a person living with asthma. Acute bronchitis cases are most prevalent during winter.

Common Treatment Options

In the majority of cases, treatment for bronchitis will depend on the nature of the cause. For example, antibiotics only work to treat bronchitis if the illness is caused by bacteria. Therefore, prescribing antibiotics for a patient whose bronchitis was caused by a virus would be ineffective. A medical professional may begin by testing some of the mucus that is coughed up to determine if the cause of the illness is bacterial or viral.

The following list covers some of the most common treatment options for bronchitis:

Rest and increased fluid intake

If you are relatively healthy otherwise, your doctor may simply advise you to rest and drink more fluids to help the illness pass on its own. In most otherwise healthy individuals, this will occur within a week to ten days.

Cough expectorants

Cough expectorants are medications designed to help you cough up the thick mucus that is in your airways. In some cases, bronchitis sufferers may have difficulty getting the mucus to come up.

Cough suppressants

Cough suppressants are not prescribed if you have a productive cough that is bringing up mucus because you need to be able to get the mucus out of your airways. However, the cough that accompanies bronchitis can linger long after the productive stage. If this is the case for you, your doctor may prescribe a medication to help eliminate the non-productive cough and allow you to rest.

Bronchodilators

Bronchodilators such as inhalers are sometimes prescribed to help patients open their airways and expel mucus more easily. This is generally a short-term treatment option designed to be used during the productive stage of the cough.

Antibiotics

As mentioned above, antibiotics will only be prescribed if a doctor can be sure that bacteria is the cause of the illness. Antibiotics are not effective at fighting viruses.

Alternative Treatments

In addition to seeking help from a medical professional, many bronchitis sufferers may rely on home remedies or alternative therapies to provide relief from bothersome symptoms and speed recovery. Alternative treatment options for bronchitis can include the following:

Humidifier

A humidifier is a small machine that releases steam to add moisture to the air. In some cases, this can help improve breathing and relieve chest discomfort.

Garlic

Garlic is reported by some to be a natural antibiotic. It also helps boost the immune system and therefore speed recovery. Garlic can simply be added to food or taken as a supplement in pill form.

Saltwater rinses

Gargling with salt water can relieve throat discomfort associated with the chronic coughing that often accompanies bronchitis.

Oregano oil

Oregano oil is a potent form of extracted oil from the oregano herb used in cooking. Oregano oil reportedly reduces inflammation and acts as a natural antibiotic. It can be consumed in supplement form, usually in easy-to-swallow capsules.

Prognosis

The best types of treatments and outcomes for your bronchitis depend on many factors. It’s important to consider whether your case is chronic or acute and what caused it.

Options for COPD Sufferers and Smokers

Bronchitis patients who also suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, may benefit from receiving lung transplants. Or they might undergo volume reduction surgeries to remove the most severely damaged parts of their lungs.

Less-invasive treatments for chronic cases include pulmonary rehabilitation. This involves guided exercise and other therapies designed to help severe sufferers manage their symptoms.

Quitting smoking is of major benefit to bronchitis sufferers. In the future, new cessation therapies and techniques could also have positive impacts on the millions of people who deal with bronchitis as a result of their tobacco habits.

Acute Cases and Natural Remedies

Some early research has investigated treatments produced from naturally derived substances, such as honey and Pelargonium, a family of flowers that includes geraniums. Since using antibiotics is commonly viewed as a bad idea for most kinds of viral-induced bronchitis, these kinds of solutions may increase in popularity with time.

Bronchitis is a common upper respiratory illness that affects millions of Americans each year. Since it leads to bothersome symptoms and often requires time off work, it is no wonder that those suffering from bronchitis want to recover as quickly as possible. By following the advice given by your physician and the helpful home remedies mentioned above, you can recover from bronchitis quickly so that you can get back to your regular routine. Additionally, implementing some lifestyle changes such as stopping smoking and avoiding irritants can help you reduce the likelihood of future bronchitis infections.

Image Point Fr / Shutterstock.com