Take a deep breath.
The air you just inhaled passed through special tubes that lead straight to your lungs. That’s how your body gets the oxygen you need and eliminates the carbon dioxide your body makes. These tubes are called bronchial tubes, also called “bronchi”.
Sometimes, bacteria or viruses enter the respiratory system and cause an infection called bronchitis.
That’s when the lining of their bronchial tubes or bronchi is irritated and becomes swollen.
The airways become constricted and the body produces more mucus to combat the irritant, which makes breathing difficult.
Acute vs. Chronic Bronchitis
There are two classifications of bronchitis: acute and chronic. Bronchitis is identified as acute if it lasts for a short period of time, usually up to 3 weeks.
Children under the age of 5 often have this kind of bronchitis, which is also known as a “chest cold”.
The more serious type of bronchitis is called chronic bronchitis, which could last for months. And if not treated immediately, could persist for years.
Common Bronchitis Symptoms to Watch Out For
One of the most common symptoms of bronchitis is coughing.
When the lining of the bronchial tubes becomes irritated, it reacts by producing more sticky, thick mucus.
This kind of mucus is called phlegm, which the body will try to expel by coughing.
When a person has bronchitis, he or she will feel the urge to cough often until the phlegm is thoroughly expelled. If bronchitis becomes more serious, the mucus might contain blood.
When coughing caused by excess mucus persists, a person may experience sleepless nights. Sleep deprivation comes with its own set of health risks.
Add to that the difficulty in breathing and getting enough oxygen, and the body will feel fatigued.
Difficulty in Breathing
Difficulty in breathing is the most serious symptom to watch out for.
The irritation of the bronchi makes the infected patients experience shortness of breath.
It happens because the bronchial tubes are swollen which makes it difficult for air to flow in and out. It is best to see a doctor immediately.
Chest pain is a common bronchitis symptom because of the accumulation of phlegm in the bronchi. Pain can also be due to the constant coughing the body does to expel phlegm.
It is best to see a medical expert when the pain from coughing persists for more than a few days. And so a cough suppressant along with other home remedies can help ease this symptom.
Because bronchitis is an infection, the body will increase its temperature to fight off the bacteria or virus.
This is the body’s natural response to any type of infection.
A fever is a good sign that your body is working hard to recover from bronchitis, so just keep yourself cool and comfortable, drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
However, if your temperature is high and lasts for more than 3 days, consult with a doctor immediately.
Bronchitis usually resolves on its own. For those recovering from bronchitis, plenty of rest and fluids will greatly help.
However, if you experience more serious symptoms, it’s advisable to seek medical attention. This is to rule out other lung infections like pneumonia.
Some examples of serious bronchitis symptoms are:
- high fever
- phlegm streaked with blood
This is especially important if you also have certain lung conditions, like asthma.
How is bronchitis diagnosed?
Aside from noting the symptoms of bronchitis, this condition is diagnosed through a series of tests. This often begins with listening to the lung’s sounds using a stethoscope.
Additional tests to confirm diagnosis include:
- Chest x-ray. This is a type of scan that traces the causes of symptoms. It also detects any lung obstructions or abnormalities.
- Sputum test. Sputum or mucus produced by the lungs can help doctors trace the cause of infection.
- Pulmonary function test. This test measures the lung’s capacity to take in air.
How is bronchitis treated?
Medication may be prescribed to address the symptoms of acute bronchitis.
- Cough medication. This helps relives throat itching and cough.
- Antibiotics. Antibiotics help prevent bacterial infections, particularly in those with weak immunity.
- Antipyretics. Medication like paracetamol can help reduce fever.
To ease breathing and reduce inflammation, an inhaler can help.
This could be especially helpful for those suffering from asthma, allergies, or other types of COPD.
More intensive treatment may be required, however, for chronic bronchitis. This is because it’s more serious than acute bronchitis.
Treatment for chronic bronchitis typically involves:
- Bronchodilators. These help open up the bronchial passages in the lungs. This helps ease breathing.
- Mucolytics. This helps the body expel mucus that may be stuck in the lungs or respiratory tract.
- Oxygen. Providing oxygen through a nasal cannula may help clear breathing obstructions.
Aside from medication to help relieve chronic bronchitis, treatment may involve home remedies. This includes bed rest and breathing exercises. You may also use a humidifier to help cleanse your airways and relieve coughing.
To help boost lung health, starting with even the simplest daily habits can greatly help. This includes quitting smoking and engaging in exercises to cleanse the lungs.
Though lung conditions like COPD can alter a person’s life, it can be managed. And it all starts with knowing how to identify the symptoms in order to seek the right, timely medical care.
Learn more about respiratory health, here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.