Bronchitis is a respiratory disease, which is characterized by inflammation of the mucous membrane of the bronchial tubes (in the lungs). As the inflamed membrane becomes swollen and thicker, the tiny air passages become narrower, thereby causing protracted spells of coughing along with breathlessness and phlegm. Bronchitis can be categorized into two types - acute and chronic. While acute bronchitis does not last for more than a few weeks; chronic bronchitis recurs frequently and lasts longer. If a person with asthma develops bronchitis, the condition is called asthmatic bronchitis.
Usually, acute bronchitis develops from common cold or other respiratory diseases. So, the initial symptoms of bronchitis may include runny nose, sore throat, muscular aches, and general fatigue. The actual onset of the disease is marked with dry cough. As the condition worsens, the cough may bring up mucus, which can be white or yellowish-green in color. Sometimes, the sputum can be blood-tinged too. In case of severe bronchitis, mild fever and chills may also develop. High fever can be a symptom of bronchitis that is caused by influenza.
Bronchitis is a medical condition that is associated with a nagging cough that lasts for a few weeks, even if the other symptoms subside. This happens in case of acute bronchitis. In case of chronic bronchitis, cough may last for a few months.
Other symptoms of bronchitis include shortness of breath, chest discomfort, etc. This is due to airway hyperreactivity, which results in narrowing of the air passages, thereby causing impairment to the normal airflow into and out of the lungs. Such airway hyperactivity can also be triggered by irritants, such as dust and fumes, cold air, tobacco smoke, and strong odors.
In a nutshell, the classic symptoms of bronchitis are:
- A hacking, dry cough, that occurs frequently, and accompanied with mucus.
- Shortness of breath, along with wheezing.
- General fatigue, loss of energy, and fever.
Usually, bronchitis stems from viral infections, and so, antibiotics are not effective for treating this condition. Hence, initial treatment involves proper management of the symptoms. The patient must get enough rest, drink plenty of liquids, and avoid irritants like fumes and smoke. Bronchodilator inhalers, cough suppressants, and antipyretics (in case of fever) are often prescribed for treating the symptoms. If the condition is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics are used for treatment. Antibiotics may also be prescribed for those with chronic bronchitis and smokers, so as to lower the risk of serious types of secondary infections. Asthma medications and bronchodilator inhalers are used for treating bronchitis in asthma patients.
It is better not to use cough suppressants, since coughing helps in bringing out the mucus and removing irritants from the air passages and lungs. However, incessant cough during night can be irritating, and hence, such medicines cannot be avoided completely. It is also advisable to get vaccinated against pneumonia and take the yearly flu shot, after consulting your healthcare provider.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.