Bronchitis is the swelling or inflammation of the air passage between the lungs and the nose known as bronchial tubes. One is considered to have bronchitis when the lining of these tubes become infected or inflamed. When you have bronchitis, you take in less air and oxygen into your lungs than normal and have mucus in the airways. Bronchitis can either be acute or chronic.
Acute bronchitis is very common and usually develops from a cold or other respiratory related infection such as flu. It is usually characterized by cough with green sputum, fever, chest discomfort, and at times shortness of breath. Acute bronchitis improves in a few days with no lasting effects, even though one may continue to cough for weeks. Nevertheless, repeated bouts of acute bronchitis may result to chronic bronchitis which requires medical care.
Chronic bronchitis is characterized by persistent, mucus producing cough on most days of the month, three months of a year for two consecutive years without secondary cause of the cough. Persons with chronic bronchitis exhibit varying degrees of breathing difficulties, with symptoms getting better and worse during varying times of the year.
Causes of Bronchitis
Bronchitis is caused by bacteria, viruses and other particles that agitate the bronchial tubes. Particularly, acute bronchitis is normally caused by a viral infection in the bronchi; the same viruses that causes flu and cold. Besides bacteria and exposure to tobacco smoke, solvents or pollutants can trigger acute bronchitis.
Chronic bronchitis commonly results from cigarette smoking. It also results from persistent acute bronchitis. In addition, toxic gases dust and other air pollutants can cause chronic bronchitis.
Symptoms of acute or chronic bronchitis may entail:
- Inflammation of the bronchi,
- Production of sputum/mucus which can range from clear, white, yellowish to green in color,
- Chest discomfort,
- Blocked or running nose as well as
- Mild fever and chills.
Who is at Risk?
People who are at risk of contracting bronchitis and high risk of having more severe symptoms include;
- People with weakened immunity
- Elderly and infants
- People exposed to too much second hand smoke
- Those exposed to air pollution, irritants at work such as chemical fumes from strong acids, chlorine, ammonia and other industrial chemicals.
Test and Diagnosis
In the initial stages of bronchitis may be confused may exhibit similar symptoms for common cold. Diagnosis usually entail chest x-ray, sputum culture which tests for presence of bacteria in the sputum and a pulmonary function test where a patient blows into a spirometer, which measures the amount of air your lungs can hold and how fast you can get air out of your lungs.
Treatment of Bronchitis
People suffering from bronchitis are often advised to rest, breathe warm and moist air, take fluids, and consume over the counter cough suppressants and pain relievers for managing symptoms and ease breathing. In most instances, acute bronchitis disappears without any special treatment but chronic bronchitis has no cure.
Bronchitis can be prevented through reducing risks for infection including avoiding cigarette smoke, getting vaccinated against influenza or against some types of pneumonia, avoiding cold, damp or polluted areas, avoiding people who are coughing and sneezing and finally ensuring hand hygiene to reduce risks of viral infection.
Though a single occurrence of bronchitis is not a cause for alarm, it can lead to pneumonia, asthma, tuberculosis, sinusitis and cystic fibrosis.