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Bronchitis

Overview

Bronchitis is an infection that affects the bronchial tubes. Bronchial tubes carry air to the lungs. Bronchitis is caused when these said tubes become inflamed and swollen. This irritation normally occurs after an infection happens which leads to the inflammation of the airways. This causes excessive production of mucus.

 

Bronchitis can either be acute or chronic. Acute bronchitis lasts about 10-14 days whereas chronic bronchitis can last about three months in a year for at least two consecutive years. These are both triggered after an infection in the airway. 

Chronic Bronchitis can lead to airflow obstruction, which groups this type of bronchitis under chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Acute bronchitis affects people of all ages but is most common amongst children under 5, where chronic bronchitis normally affects people over 40.

 

Causes

Bronchitis is mostly triggered by a virus or bacterial infection. Smoking is also one of the key risk factors for bronchitis. Acute bronchitis is usually caused due to:

 

  • A viral or bacterial infection
  • Persistent exposure to irritants, which can lead to bronchial inflammation
  • These irritants include dust, tobacco smoke, and fumes

Whereas chronic bronchitis is caused by:

  • Viral and bacterial infection
  • Inhaling smoke
  • Asthma or allergic bronchitis

Symptoms

For both acute and chronic bronchitis. These are the signs and symptoms that may occur:

  • Coughing
  • Excessive production of mucus. The color of the mucus can determine the severity of bronchitis. It can be clear, white, yellowish-gray, or green. 
  • Fatigue and restlessness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Mild fever and chills
  • Chest discomfort

If you have acute bronchitis, you may experience headaches and other fatigue-related symptoms. These symptoms will subside in a week while you may suffer from a nagging cough for several weeks.

Diagnosis

Your primary care physician will carry out a physical exam to see whether you have bronchitis or not. They’ll ask questions about your recent symptoms that may be associated with bronchitis. They’ll also listen for any unusual sounds from your lungs using a stethoscope. You’ll also be asked about your medical history and about whether. 

After conducting the physical exam, the doctor may ask you to get one of the following tests done to see the severity of bronchitis:

  • A sputum swab test
  • Blood Tests to check the oxygen levels in the blood
  • Bronchitis Chest X-ray
  • Pulmonary lung function tests

Treatment

The physician normally advises the patients to rest, drink water and take some over-the-counter medications. If you suffer from chronic bronchitis, the symptoms subside for a while, but will come back worse if exposed to irritants like tobacco and dust.

In this case, your primary care physician might recommend some of the following options:

  • Cough medicine 
  • Consuming honey
  • Humidifiers
  • Bronchodilators
  • Mucolytics
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Steroids 
  • Antibiotics for bronchitis

When To See A Doctor

Bronchitis usually resolves itself, after a few weeks and you can use some bronchitis medicines to ease the symptoms but if you experience any of the following signs, see a primary care physician:

  • Bloody mucus that thickens or darkens
  • Cough lasting more than 3 weeks
  • Chest Pains
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Rapid breathing
  • Drowsiness and confusion

If you are already suffering from a lung or heart condition, see a doctor if start experiencing symptoms of bronchitis

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