Bronchitis and Your Lungs

Your lungs are the body parts that regulate the supply of oxygen you need for survival. It is in the lungs that the oxygen from the air you inhale is transferred to your blood for circulation throughout your body. At the same time, your blood releases carbon dioxide, a waste product, which you exhale.

The primary airway leading into each of your lungs is called the bronchus. The bronchus divides into smaller air passages known as bronchioles. Each of the bronchioles terminates in a cluster of small air sacs called alveoli. There are millions of these in each lung.

Each alveolus has capillaries that permit the oxygen and carbon dioxide to move between the blood and the air. Your lungs are very vulnerable to moving particles in the air. All of these can affect the functioning of your lungs. When the mucous membrane lining of the bronchi becomes inflamed, you have bronchitis.

There are two types of bronchitis, acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis. The symptoms of acute bronchitis are a deep cough with grayish or yellowish phlegm from your lungs, breathlessness, wheezing, and a fever. Some people experience a pain in the upper chest that worsens during coughing. Acute bronchitis is caused by the same viruses that cause colds.

Acute bronchitis affects almost everyone once in a while. The recommended home treatment is to use aspirin to control the fever and an over the counter cough medication. Using a vaporizer or humidifier to keep the air in your home moist is also helpful. If your temperature exceeds 101 degrees, you become breathless or cough up blood; you should see your physician immediately. You should also contact your doctor if you do not recover within forty-eight hours. And if you find you are having repeated attacks you need to see your physician.

The symptoms of chronic bronchitis are similar to acute bronchitis. However, in chronic bronchitis the condition persists and worsens.

These repeated infections damage the linings of the bronchi and the bronchioles. Then the lungs are more susceptible to additional infection. Also, if the infection spreads to the alveoli, pneumonia or emphysema can result. Chronic bronchitis can have an adverse effect on your heart and it can also lead to pulmonary hypertension.

It is very important that anyone with chronic bronchitis seek treatment in the early stages to avoid the many risks involved. People who smoke are more susceptible to chronic bronchitis than non-smokers. Smokers who have recurring attack of acute bronchitis are endangering their lives by continuing to smoke. Non-smokers with chronic bronchitis should also avoid second hand smoke. Everyone with chronic bronchitis should stay away from people who have colds.

Chronic bronchitis is more common among men than women. It is also more common in urban areas than in rural areas and in industrialized countries as opposed to developing countries. People living in cold, damp areas or heavily polluted areas that consistently contact acute bronchitis may be wise to consider re-locating. Air pollution can trigger attacks of bronchitis in susceptible individuals. Anyone with chronic bronchitis would do better in a non-polluted, warmer and drier area.