Why does bronchitis occur?
Bronchitis occurs when the airways that carry air to your lungs, called the bronchial tubes, become inflamed and irritated. Your bronchial tubes produce excess mucus and cause coughing when they become inflamed.
What is bronchitis?
Anyone can get bronchitis, depending on which type it is. Here are the two most common kinds of bronchitis that you or your loved ones can get infected with.
If you have bronchitis, you may have any of the following symptoms:
When acute bronchitis isn’t treated properly it could transform into pneumonia.
Pneumonia is much worse than bronchitis. It can be life-threatening in infants, older people, and other people with weakened immune systems.
There is another type of bronchitis called chronic bronchitis.
Chronic bronchitis is caused by the irritation of your airways. This is usually from smoking or your exposure to other irritants such as toxic gasses.
Unlike acute bronchitis, chronic bronchitis is not caused by a virus or bacteria. The main cause of chronic bronchitis is cigarette smoking. It may also be caused by air pollution or your work environment.
Symptoms of chronic bronchitis can include:
Diagnosis of bronchitis
Only a licensed healthcare professional can diagnose bronchitis.
To diagnose acute bronchitis, your doctor will listen to your symptoms and do a physical exam. There are no specific tests for bronchitis, but your doctor may do blood tests to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.
Your doctor may order a chest x-ray if you have a fever in order to rule out pneumonia.
To diagnose chronic bronchitis, your doctor may call for pulmonary function tests to see how your lungs function.
When testing your lung function, your doctor may use a spirometer, which is a device that you blow into. The spirometer helps find out how much air your lungs can hold and how quickly you can get air out of your lungs.
Treatments for bronchitis
Since acute bronchitis is usually caused by a virus, antibiotics will not help. Acute bronchitis will most likely get better on its own, so treatment is generally focused on relieving your symptoms.
You can try the following measures to feel better:
- Get lots of rest
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially hot liquids such as tea
- Take honey to help with cough, but do not give honey to an infant
- Use sinus rinses or saline nasal sprays
- Use lozenges to help with sore throat, but do not give lozenges to children under four
- Use a humidifier or inhale steam from a hot shower
- Take over-the-counter (OTC) pain medicine such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
Chronic bronchitis can't be cured, but your doctor may recommend any of the following to help manage your symptoms:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids
- Bronchodilators to help your airway stay open
- A mucus clearing device
- Pulmonary rehabilitation
- Oxygen therapy
Possible side effects and complications
There are some possible side effects of the medications used to treat chronic bronchitis. The types of side effects depend on the type of medicines.
Side effects of steroid inhalers can include:
Side effects of bronchodilators can include:
- Trembling, especially in the hands
- Dry mouth
- Palpitations, which is when you notice your heartbeat
- Cramps in your muscles
- Nausea and vomiting
Oxygen Therapy is generally safe, but it can have the following side effects and risks:
Lung Disease/COPD Resources
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
American Family Physician: "Acute Bronchitis."
American Lung Association: "Bronchitis (Acute)."
Canadian Family Physician: "Acute bronchitis."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Chest Cold (Acute Bronchitis)."
Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Chronic Bronchitis."
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "Oxygen Therapy."
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "Pneumonia."
National Health Service: "Bronchodilators."
National Health Service: "Steroid inhalers."