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Overview of Bronchitis

Bronchitis is typically contracted when you also have the flu or a cold. Bronchitis occurs when the bronchial tubes become infected and swollen. Symptoms are typically coughing and extra mucus. There are two types of bronchitis, and this includes acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis. Acute bronchitis is the most common, and only lasts for a couple of weeks. Chronic bronchitis is quite the opposite, as symptoms continue to come back or linger forever. Chronic bronchitis is one of the conditions that are associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Bronchitis Symptoms

Since bronchitis directly affects the bronchial tubes, which carry air to the lungs, you will find it difficult to breathe. Other symptoms include: congestion, coughing and/or coughing up mucus, shortness of breath, wheezing, fever, sore throat, stuffy nose, exhaustion, or body aches. Your cough may linger for weeks after you are feeling better.

Bronchitis Causes

The main cause of bronchitis is the bacteria that are associated with the flu or a cold. As your body is attempting to fight off these infections, your bronchial tubes become swollen and produce additional mucus, which makes it more difficult to breathe. Some other causes of bronchitis may be: a weak immune system, you smoke, or you live with a smoker, you work in an environment with harmful substances, or you live and frequently traveling to places with poor air quality.

Bronchitis Quit Smoking

Smoking is the main cause of chronic bronchitis. You do not have to be actively smoking to inhale the smoke, but if you are around it and are breathing in secondhand smoke, then you may also be affected. Inhaling the smoke may make the airways smaller and they will produce more mucus. When this happens over a long period of time, it will make breathing much more difficult. The first step to feeling better is to quit smoking or quit being around people who smoke. This disease will only get worse if you do not make this crucial step.

Bronchitis When to See a Doctor

For the first few days of being sick, it may be difficult to tell the difference in a regular cold or bronchitis. After a week of a cough, you will want to call your physician to schedule an appointment. If your cough does not get better after your appointment, you will want to see your physician again if your cough lasts longer than 3 weeks. You may also want to schedule an appointment if you are not able to sleep properly, or if you are not able to stay awake during the day. You will also want to see your physician if you are producing discolored and bloody mucus. Lastly, if you are experiencing wheezing or shortness of breath and have a fever of 100.4 or higher. These symptoms are serious, and your physician should be notified right away.

Bronchitis Diagnosis

Diagnosis is typically completed through a physical exam. Your physician will listen to your lungs and may ask questions about symptoms and how long symptoms have been occurring. In some cases, your physician may check the oxygen levels in your blood, which is done through a finger sensor. Other tests may include: a lung function test, chest x-ray, blood tests, or mucus testing.

Acute Bronchitis

Acute bronchitis comes around suddenly and you will usually feel better within 10 days. Even though you may start to feel better after ten days, you may have a lingering cough that is associated with acute bronchitis. Acute bronchitis usually comes around because you are breathing in things that are irritating your lungs. Bacteria may also be the cause of acute bronchitis. The bacterium that is associated with acute bronchitis is the same that is seen in the cold or the flu. Since this sickness is usually gone within 10 days, it is not very serious, with the exception of young children, the elderly, or people who have not been vaccinated.

Chronic Bronchitis

The main difference in acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis is the time it takes you to feel better. Chronic bronchitis takes a while to form, and the condition will stay around for a long time. Over time, the symptoms become worse and breathing is very difficult. Many people will experience chest discomfort or tightness along with wheezing when they breathe. Women are twice as likely to experience chronic bronchitis as men. Chronic bronchitis will be treated according to your symptoms. Regardless of severity, you must quit smoking immediately, as the most common cause of chronic bronchitis is smoking. Nearly 90% of people that suffer from chronic bronchitis have a history of smoking. The other causes of chronic bronchitis include: secondhand smoke, exposure to air pollution, or from working in an industry with chemical fumes on a regular basis. There are two main types of COPD, which include chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Bronchitis Treatments

Most often, bronchitis goes away after a couple of weeks. Treatments are completely different for both acute and chronic bronchitis. In acute bronchitis, your physician will likely recommend rest and will treat your symptoms. If your bronchitis is caused by bacteria, your physician will prescribe you antibiotics. In chronic bronchitis, you will need to take medications that will decrease the inflammation in the bronchi. You will also need to get away from smoking or people who smoke.

If you also have asthma, allergies, or severe wheezing, then an inhaler may be used. Some at-home remedies that you can do are to drink plenty of water, get rest, use a humidifier, or take over-the-counter pain relievers or cough medicines.

Bronchitis Prevention

There are a few ways that you can prevent contracting bronchitis. If you smoke or live with someone who smokes, it is essential to quit and avoid cigarette smoke. You may also want to get the flu shot annually, as bronchitis is typically contracted from the flu virus. Wash your hands often to avoid germs. Wear a mask when you are doing activities that may irritate your lungs, such as painting. You will also want to make sure that your pertussis vaccine is up to date.