Overview of Bronchitis
Bronchitis is inflammation/swelling of bronchial tubes. The work of bronchial tube is to carry air to your lungs.
There are 2 types of Bronchitis:
1. Acute Bronchitis- Acute bronchitis id the condition in which a cough lasts for at least 10 days. In few cases, it can be treated naturally. Primary symptoms of acute bronchitis include viral/bacterial infection, headache, muscle pain, fatigue, sore throat and others.
2. Chronic Bronchitis- Chronic bronchitis is a condition in which a cough containing mucus persists for so many days. It lasts for 3months and at least 2 years in a row. It is a long-term illness. Chronic bronchitis is caused by bacteria, virus, smoking, inhaling irritating chemical fumes, inhaling dust, weaker immune system, repeated exposure to lung irritants, etc.
For both, acute and chronic bronchitis, most of the symptoms are same. It includes:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest congestion
- Whistling sound while breathing
- Runny/stuffy nose
- A sore throat
- A cough with lot of mucus which is clear, white, green or yellow
- Slight fever and chills
In case of acute bronchitis, few symptoms of cold may also occur such as body pain, mild headache, etc. These symptoms usually improve within a week, but the coughing lasts for few weeks while symptoms of chronic bronchitis last for several weeks and it usually comes back.
Usually, the acute bronchitis is caused by a virus, it is the same virus (Influenza) which causes cold and flu and the most common cause of chronic bronchitis is Smoking. But few causes responsible for both acute and chronic bronchitis include:
- Weaker Immune system
- Virus (Influenza A and B, etc.)
- Bacterial infections (strep throat etc.)
- Damaged bronchial tree
- Exposure to irritants such as dust, chemical fumes or smoke
- If you have GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
- Living in area with lots of pollution
- Suffering from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
People suffering from asthma or emphysema, are more prone to chronic bronchitis. Any individual with repeated episodes of acute bronchitis is one of the common cause of chronic bronchitis.
- Eat balanced and healthy diet to keep your body as healthy as possible.
- Avoid cigarette smoking as it may increase the risk of clogging bronchial tubes.
- Getting vaccinated will protect you against the virus that causes bronchitis. It will also protect you against flu and pneumonia.
- Make sure you get enough sleep.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes if you’re around people with bronchitis.
- Avoid sharing glasses/utensils.
- Wash your hands regularly, particularly during the cold season.
- Limit your exposure to air irritants such as chemical fumes, dust, and other pollutants.
- Wash your hands frequently as it will reduce your risk of catching a viral infection.
- Wear a surgical mask as it will help you if you’re exposed to dust or fumes.
- Avoid long exposure to air pollution.
- Stay away from individuals suffering from cold or flu.
- Wash the hands frequently to prevent the spread of infection.
Turmeric has one of the best natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which is helpful in treating cough associated with bronchitis and relieves from congestion. Symptoms such as shortness of breath, fever, etc can be treated with the help of turmeric. Mix 1 tsp of turmeric in a glass of milk, boil it and drink it twice or thrice daily, for better results.
Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties which help to relieve inflamed, irritated or swollen bronchial tubes. It also strengthens the immune system and is very helpful in treating a common cold.
- Ginger tea is very helpful in treating bronchitis. Add a small piece of ginger, a clove and pinch of cinnamon to a cup of boiling water, let it boil for 2-3 minutes and drink it for few days.
- For herbal tea, add 1 tsp of ginger powder and black pepper to a cup of boiling water, let it boil for few minutes, add honey in it and drink for few days.
- You can also take few drops of fresh ginger juice and mix it with honey, consume it twice or thrice daily for few days. It will be very useful to get rid of a cough and sore throat.
Honey has antibacterial and antiviral properties. It helps to deal with a cough which occurs with bronchitis. It also boosts your immune system. Honey and lemon together are very soothing to the throat.
- Mix 1 tsp of honey and lemon in equal amount, take it spoonful; this will help to relieve the symptoms.
- For better results, add 1 tsp of honey to your regular cup of tea and drink it daily.
- You can also add 1 tsp of lemon and honey to a cup of warm water and drink it once or twice daily. This will help to treat throat inflammation and congestion.
Usually, people suffering are suggested to drink lots of water, take rest and use a humidifier, etc. Chronic bronchitis needs proper medical care but in most of the cases, acute bronchitis goes away on its own. If you are suffering from bronchitis try to Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks during medications, Try to breath humidified air, Try avoiding exposure to environmental smoke, Get plenty of rest, etc.
Using a humidifier during bronchitis helps to lose the mucus and that relieves airflow. Breathing exercise helps to slow down the breathing. Drinking lots of water will help to thin out the mucus, moist the throat, avoid dehydration and will loosen nasal mucus; which is very relieving. Doctors usually advise their patients with respiratory infections to increase their fluid intake. Foods such as ginger, almond, honey, lemon, etc are natural treatments for bronchitis. A healthy diet helps to alleviate the symptoms of bronchitis and also manage the condition, certain foods are fruits, vegetables, beans, eggs, nuts, whole grains, fish, etc.
Treatment depends on its cause and symptoms. There are various medications are available for the treatment depending on the severity of the symptoms. Medications include corticosteroids, bronchodilator inhalers, nebulizer treatments, etc. Chronic bronchitis lasts for more than 3 months and 2 years in a row.
Over the counter Painkillers
Some painkiller medicines are available over the counter to treat few symptoms. Medications are Ibuprofen (Advil, Mortin), aspirin, naproxen (Aleve), acetaminophen (Tylenol). All these medications can relieve the symptoms such as fever, pain, and headache. But remember aspirin should not be given to children unless adviced by a qualified doctor.
Corticosteroids help to reduce the inflammation of airways. They can be taken in 2 ways: orally and inhaled. Orally used corticosteroids are methylprednisolone and prednisone. Inhaled corticosteroids are budesonide (Pulmicort) and fluticasone (Flovent).
Nebulizers are sometimes recommended to relieve the symptoms. It includes ipratropium (Atrovent) and Albuterol (Proventil, Ventolin).
Cough expectorants help to thin the mucus. It also helps to bring up the mucus and also lubricates the respiratory tract. Try avoiding cough suppressant as it works to reduce a dry cough but by blocking the coughing reflex. Consult your doctor before giving cough syrup to children.
Bronchitis is a common condition and annually millions of people suffer from it. Since most cases are acute, it can be treated easily using home remedies and over the counter medicines. However, if you are suffering from chronic bronchitis, we recommend you see a doctor as soon as possible. Follow your doctor advise for the treatment.
When to see a Doctor?
See your doctor, if your cough:
- Produces blood
- Causes chest pain
- Prevents you from sleeping
- Lasts more than 3 weeks
- Produce discolored mucus
- Darker or thicker mucus
- Brings blood
- Associated with Shortness of breath
- Accompanied by high fever
- Unexplained weight loss
Is it contagious?
Yes. As it can be caused by bacteria and viruses too, these microbes can contaminate objects and people around you.