What is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis means the inflammation in the bronchial tubes. Bronchial tubes are the airways which enable the passage of air from the lungs to the wind pipe known as trachea. The lungs, the bronchial tubes coming from the lungs and connecting to the trachea help in the breathing process. Any inflammation or irritation in the lining of the bronchial tubes may obstruct the smooth passage of air giving rise to cough accompanied with a slimy substance called phlegm. This condition is called Bronchitis.

What happens in Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is a type of respiratory disease in which the mucus membrane or linings of the bronchial tubes of the lungs get inflamed. As the inflammation increases, a swelling appears and as the swelling thickens, it narrows down the bronchial tubes of the lungs and as a result there are coughing-spells or attacks, mostly accompanied by phlegm and shortness of breath.  Bronchitis is of 2 types: Acute and Chronic. This condition is sometimes associated with Bronchial Asthma.

What is the difference between Acute Bronchitis and Chronic Bronchitis?

Acute Bronchitis means one which is for a short term, a period of 2-3 weeks of coughing accompanied by phlegm. It may be a result of upper respiratory tract viral or bacterial infection, and medication and good health may relieve you of Acute Bronchitis in some days.

Chronic Bronchitis is of a more serious nature, and may last for more than a year. The primary function of the lungs is to purify air and ensure smooth breathing process but in Chronic Bronchitis the functions of the lungs may be affected. The accumulation of thick mucus may hinder the movement of lungs and thereby lead to infection which may permanently damage the lungs and this condition is called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease [ COPD ]. Smoking is one of the leading causes of Chronic Bronchitis. 

What are the other causes of Bronchitis?

The usual cause of Acute Bronchitis is infection in the lungs which is mostly a viral infection. The symptoms of Acute Bronchitis ease with medication and home remedies, but repeated attacks of Acute Bronchitis may lead to Chronic Bronchitis.

The cause of Chronic Bronchitis is continued smoking which damages the minute hair in the bronchial tubes which act as stoppers of irritants. The other causes include: Industrial pollutants, vehicular emissions, long term exposure to dust and mites, grain handling, sulphur dioxide and working in coal mines. But cigarette smoking remains the major cause.

What are the symptoms of Bronchitis?

Symptoms of Bronchitis are:

Acute Bronchitis: Coughing along with phlegm, tightness in chest, fever and chills, shortness of breath and pain near the breastbone.

Chronic Bronchitis: Persistent coughing along with thick yellow green phlegm for almost 3 months in a year, wheezing and breathlessness.

What are the complications of Bronchitis?

It is time to seek medical advice if the following symptoms are present:

Persistent cough which becomes severe and starts affecting daily life.

The Symptoms last for more than 7 days.

If accompanied by chest pain.

The phlegm or mucus turns thick, dark, increases in volume of mucus with traces of blood.

If there is Acute Bronchitis and there is some other underlying condition like HIV/AIDS or heart disease then it can lead to more serious infections like pneumonia. Consult your doctor immediately.

How is Bronchitis diagnosed?

Normally one does not need to see a doctor for  Bronchitis and it gets treated on its own.

Acute Bronchitis can easily be diagnosed by presence of cough and the other accompanying symptoms which the doctor may fathom by asking you various questions and listening to your chest with the help of stethoscope.

Chronic Bronchitis is easily diagnosed by its symptoms but if there is some other underlying condition which displays similar symptoms then a Chest X-Ray will be advised and other tests may be further advised to rule out other lung infections and any other serious conditions.

What is the treatment for bronchitis?

Normally there is no need for treatment of Bronchitis and it can be easily treated and managed at home or on its own. There is no cure for Chronic Bronchitis but the symptoms can be managed by quitting smoking and living a healthy life.

If you have Bronchitis then quit smoking, drink plenty of water, treat headaches and pains and aches with proper medication and a homemade mixture of honey and ginger juice will work wonders for your Bronchitis. Avoid taking of over-the-counter cough medications without medical advice.

How can one prevent Bronchitis?

The key to good health is to give up smoking and your Chronic Bronchitis will ease. Maintain a good hygiene, Bronchitis is contagious so try and avoid contact with an affected person, Wash your hands often and use disposable tissues. Wear a mask when you are exposing yourself to risk factors. Healthy living can manage Bronchitis to a large extent.

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