Bronchitis is an inflammation and irritation of the airways that lead to the lungs. Its usual cause is the invasion of viruses. It can also be caused by bacteria and exposure to cigarette smoke or air pollution.
The inflammation caused by acute bronchitis is not permanent. It goes away when the infection or irritation goes away.
Symptoms of bronchitis usually begin several days after an upper respiratory infection, such as a cold or a sinus infection. Symptoms often include:
– a dry cough that may produce sputum,
– mild fever,
– discomfort or tightness in the chest, and
Having bronchitis and another lung disease such as asthma, may increase your risk of pneumonia. Frequent lung infections, especially in a person who smokes, may lead to the development of chronic bronchitis. Tobacco smokers are also at a high risk for developing emphysema. Chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and other lung conditions, such as asthma, are known as chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.
Most cases of bronchitis can be managed with home treatment. These are some steps you can do to prevent complications and feel better:
1. Drink 8 – 12 glasses of water per day. Liquids help thin out mucous in the lungs so it can be coughed out
2. Get some extra rest. Let your energy go to healing.
3. To help relieve aches and pains, there are over the counter medications like aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen that you can take.
4. To quiet a dry hacking cough and help you sleep, use a non prescription cough suppressant that contains dextrpmetorphan. Avoid cough suppressants that contain more than 1 active ingredient.
5. Breathe moist air from a humidifier, vaporizer, hot shower, or a sink filled with hot water. The heat and moisture will help thin out mucous so it can be coughed out.
6. If you have other symptoms that may suggest you have the flu, treat these symptoms first and reassess your symptoms after 48 hours.
The following symptoms may mean that your lung infection is getting worse and it is time to see your doctor because you may be developing a bacterial lung infection:
– cough with wheezing or difficulty in breathing
– bloody cough
– cough that lasts more than 14 days especially if it produces sputum
– dry hacking cough that lasts several weeks following a cold or sinus infection
– prolonged fever
Your doctor may prescribe an inhaler to open your airways. Antibiotics will also be prescribed if you have a secondary bacterial infection.
Inhaled medicines are usually prescribed for bronchitis. These drugs include bronchodilators like albuterol and ipratropium that help open your airways and clear out mucous. An oral bronchodilator and steroids (either inhaled or oral) are often also necessary. If you have low oxygen levels, home oxygen will be used.
If you have acute bronchitis, symptoms usually go away within 7 to 10 days if you do not have an underlying lung disorder. However, a dry, hacking cough can linger for a number of months. The chance for recovery is poor for persons with advanced chronic bronchitis. Early recognition and treatment significantly improve the chance of good outcome. If you are a smoker, quitting also lessens the risk of complications.