Bronchitis is a condition where the mucous membranes of the bronchial tree appear inflamed. The bronchial tree are the tubes that carry air into the lungs.
Because of this inflammation, people with bronchitis show such clear symptoms as cough and hard breathing. Cough is a defensive reaction of the body that is trying to expel the mucus which develops into the bronchi as a result of this swelling. This is called expectoration.
Consequently cough is good and should not be stopped unless dry cough is involved (cough win no expectoration) or in case it is too violent or it prevents patients from sleeping.
Most of the cases of bronchitis are not serious and they do not need medical assistance. Some resting at home, quitting smoking, drinking a lot of liquids, and taking an over-the-counter pain reliever will be sufficient for it to go away in 7 or 10 days.
Visit the doctor in that cases
However the doctor should attend you in the following situations:
- If there is blood in the sputum.
- If your sputum is thick green and smells badly.
- If your body shivers.
- If you have persistent low fever for more than 3 days.
- If you have high fever.
- If your chest aches.
- If you are short of breath
- If your cough doesn't stop or goes back frequently.
- If you suffer from Chronic heart illness.
- If you suffer from Chronic lung illness
Types of bronchitis
There are two types of bronchitis:
- Acute bronchitis: Its a momentary inflammation that appears as a result of a viral disease of the respiratory tract, mainly common cold or influenza. It generally lasts only some days (between 7 and 10 days) but it can take several weeks or months. However it is not recurrent.
- Chronic bronchitis : Its a recurrent inflammation as a result of mucous membranes being harmed by some external factor, such as tobacco or inhaled toxics (tobacco, grain powder, mine dust, hair sprays, air pollution etc). To be considered Chronic bronchitis it must be recurrent, that's to say it has to last at least during 90 days o more a year for a period of two consecutive years.
Symptoms of bronchitis
They depend of the type of bronchitis they refer to. The most important ones are:
- Acute bronchitis symptoms: Cough that can be dry cough (cough without sputum) or productive cough (cough which tries to release yellow or green mucus, - sputum or phlegm production) wheezing, dyspnoea (shortness of breath), general discomfort, sore throat, fever, runny nose, nasal congestion, chest congestion, etc.
- Chronic bronchitis symptoms: productive cough, dyspnoea (shortness of breath), wheezing, fever, pain in the chest, tiredness, etc. These symptoms are similar to Acute bronchitis although their recurrence makes them more distinguishable. Other symptoms which only appear in this type of bronchitis are blue colored lips (They show a lack of oxygen in the blood) feet, legs or ankles swollen, frequent common cold or influenza.
Causes of bronchitis
- Acute bronchitis causes: In most of the cases it is produced by viruses, including those responsible for cold or influenza. It is supposed that bacteria only cause 10 % of the cases of acute bronchitis. Infections caused by fungus rarely produce bronchitis.
- Chronic bronchitis causes: Chronic bronchitis is caused mainly by tobacco. Other factors can produce Chronic bronchitis, specially inhaling irritating substances (factory fumes, dust in the mines, painting sprays, varnishes, etc). Acute bronchitis, not properly treated, can become chronic.
Diagnosis and treatment of bronchitis
Faced with possible symptoms of bronchitis , medical intervention is necessary to diagnose its nature and its more convenient treatment. Doctor may need some tests to diagnose which type of bronchitis you are suffering from.
For example, pulmonary function test, blood tests or x-rays will discard a possible Chronic bronchitis, sputum samples analysis can determine the nature of the infection.
In respect to Acute bronchitis, most of the cases cure by themselves in a few days. Treatment for this type of bronchitis doesn't generally require antibiotics since they are produced by viruses.
Sometimes it may be convenient to take some decongestants in order to alleviate nasal congestion or some expectorants in case of dry cough to dissolve phlegm and help to expel them from our lungs.
Medicines for cough should not be generally administered in the presence of productive cough, unless it impedes to sleep or becomes too difficult to put up with. Cough medicines are not recommended for children, specially under 2 years old. In case of wheezing some bronchial asthma treatment could be necessary
For Chronic bronchitis you may need some other medicines such as bronchodilators, or steroids. Some people may need oxygen therapy when their lungs are not longer able to take enough air. In order to prevent Chronic bronchitis recurrence you are advised to vaccinate against flu and pneumonia.
The natural treatment of bronchitis involves using a series of natural resources that help to prevent or remedy it .