Inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes where the air goes in and out from your lungs is called bronchitis. People who suffer from bronchitis cough up thickened, discolored mucus. There are two types of bronchitis, acute and chronic.
Acute bronchitis is very common and it often develops from a cold or other respiratory infection. A more serious condition, chronic bronchitis, is a constant inflammation or irritation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, which is often a result of smoking.
Usually, acute bronchitis improves in just several days without any lasting effects, although a person who had this condition may cough for weeks. However, in case you have repeated bouts of bronchitis, you are probably having chronic bronchitis, which requires medical attention. Chronic bronchitis is a condition that is part of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Acute bronchitis is usually caused by the same viruses that cause flu or colds. Since antibiotics don’t kill viruses, this kind of medication is not useful in many cases of bronchitis. Smoking cigarettes is the most common cause of chronic bronchitis. Dust, toxic gases, or air pollution in the workplace or environment also can contribute to the condition.
For either chronic bronchitis or acute bronchitis, symptoms are cough, fatigue, slight fever and chills, shortness of breath, chest discomfort, and production of mucus, which can be white, clear, green, or yellowish-gray in color – rarely it may be streaked with blood.
In case you have acute bronchitis, you may annoying cough which linger for a few weeks after the inflammation is over. Chronic bronchitis causes a productive cough which can last for at least three months, and it can recur for at least two consecutive years. People who have chronic bronchitis have periods when their symptoms become worse.
During those times, it is possible to have acute bronchitis on top of chronic bronchitis. So, visit your doctor if the cough prevents you from sleeping, last more then three weeks, produces discolored mucus, is accompanied by fever higher than 100 F or 38 C, is associated with shortness of breath or wheezing, and produces blood.
For most people antibiotics are unnecessary for acute bronchitis. The infection in almost every case goes away on its own in just one week. However, if you want to feel better, you can do these things:
- Get plenty of rest
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Use inhaler if you have asthma or some other chronic lung condition
- Use steam or humidifier in the bathroom
- If you have a fever take acetaminophen or aspirin. Don’t give aspirin to children
- If you are wheezing or if your symptoms don’t improve, your doctor may prescribe an inhaler in order to open your airways.
- Sometimes, bacteria can infect the airways along with the virus. In case this happens, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
- Your doctor may prescribe you antibiotics if he or she thinks you also have bacteria in your airways. If you have a chronic lung disease, such as COPD, then a bacterial infection is more common.
- Some medicines can help break up or loosen mucus, and you can buy them without a prescription. Ask the pharmacist for the guaifenesin.
Other tips which may help you are:
- Wash your hands often in order to avoid spreading viruses
- Don’t smoke
- Avoid secondhand smoke
- Avoid air pollution
Follow these tips in order to reduce your risk of bronchitis:
- Wash your hands to reduce your risk of catching a viral infection. Wash hand frequently and use hand sanitizers.
- Get vaccinated. A lot of cases of acute bronchitis are caused by influenza, which is a virus. By getting a yearly flu vaccine, you can protect yourself from getting the flu. Also, consider vaccination which protects against certain types of pneumonia.
- Wear a surgical mask. You might consider wearing a face mask in crowds and at work if you have COPD.
- Avoid cigarette smoke, because it increases the risk of chronic bronchitis.