Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchi, or air passages. (But then, if you knew anything about medical terminology at all, you already figured that out. -itis = Inflammation of, so as long as you've heard words like "bronchial" before, you're in the right general region) . Usually bronchitis is caused by a virus that causes the lung passages to swell up, making it hard to breathe.
The body is an amazing thing, and it responds to situations like redness and infection with other lovely things, like sticky mucus. While this does not seem like it would be a plus to those of us coughing it up all day and night, it's actually the body's way of coping with inflammation. Unfortunately, that makes it even harder to breathe through air passages that are already swollen.
The best way to get rid of bronchitis is to wait it out – to sleep, drink water, cough up the mucus (possibly using an expectorant) and cut back on the smoking if you do. However, it can occasionally get more serious and require a trip to the doctor. If any of the following happen, seek medical help beyond Mucinex and orange juice:
- symptoms remain for more than a month
- high fever or fatigue
- you have had bronchitis many times (this may be a sign of acute bronchitis)
- your feet are swollen
- you cough up blood or bad-tasting mucus (I'm not saying you love and want to eat your other mucus, but if it does not taste normal and mucus-y, you should probably check into it).
If the doctor thinks it necessary, you may use an inhaler filled with corticosteroids, which will help to reduce the swelling the way it does for people with asthma.