Bronchitis is a respiratory infection that results in inflammation on the bronchial tubes, which are the tubes that carry air to the lungs and then back from lungs as well. This inflammation results in cough and thick mucus that may be discolored. Bronchitis has two variations: acute and chronic.
Chronic bronchitis is a serious condition while acute bronchitis is common. Acute bronchitis can be treated and improves with time. Bronchitis brings with it many symptoms and signs including cough, mucus, fatigue, tiredness, fever, chills and discomfort in chest. Symptoms for both acute and chronic are same.
Chronic bronchitis is diagnosed if the cough continues for at least 3 months, and recurs frequently for at least 2 years. Acute bronchitis results in an irritating cough that continues for a long time even after the inflammation subsides. Acute bronchitis is caused by viruses, usually the ones that also cause colds and flu, while chronic bronchitis is usually caused by smoking, air pollution or toxic elements present in surroundings.
Smoking, second hand smoke from smokers, and smoke pollution all contribute towards increasing the risk of bronchitis. People who have low resistance towards diseases may also fall ill with bronchitis. People who already are ill with cold or influenza have a higher chance of contacting bronchitis. Old people and infants can fall ill with bronchitis as they have weak immune systems.
Untreated bronchitis may lead to pneumonia, and repeated episodes of bronchitis can lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Bronchitis is usually diagnosed with chest x-rays, sputum test, and the pulmonary function test. Doctors also listen to the breathing pattern during diagnosis to identify bronchitis. A bronchitis patient may have difficulty in breathing due to the inflamed airways.
Viral bronchitis cannot be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics are recommended only when the underlying infection is a result of bacteria. Cough suppressants can be used to relieve the discomfort from coughing, even though these suppressants are not recommended. Cough suppressants can be used at night so that the patient can sleep comfortable.
Living in a healthy environment can reduce the risk of bronchitis. A mask is recommended if you cannot avoid smoke or irritants that cause bronchitis. Dry weather increases the discomfort of bronchitis, therefore clean humidifiers should be used. Cold air might also aggravate bronchitis, so masks can be considered for survival in cold air.
A doctor should be consulted if any time a patient thinks they have more than acute bronchitis, and especially if the cough spells recur frequently.