Chances are that you will be subject to bronchitis at some point in your life, especially in your senior years, as your immunity system weakens. Bronchitis might be an inconvenient “chest cold” that you can shake off in a few days, or it could be a more serious, chronic form that calls for treatment and careful management.
The bronchial tubes that carry air to your lungs can become inflamed and produce mucus. This is the condition referred to as bronchitis.
Constricted airways lead to difficulty in breathing and coughing that produces mucus. Other symptoms include discomfort or pain in the chest, a low fever, and shortness of breath.
There are two main types of bronchitis — acute bronchitis is a short-term infection, while the chronic type is ongoing.
Most incidents of acute bronchitis are caused by viruses, although bacteria can also lead to the condition. Acute bronchitis may arise from a respiratory illness, such as the common cold or a bout of flu, that spreads from the nose or throat into the airways.
Acute bronchitis doesn’t usually require medical treatment — the infection that causes acute bronchitis will generally run its course after five days. The cough may linger for seven to 10 days, or even months afterward, due to the irritated bronchial lining.
When a cough with mucus persists, occurring on most days for three months of the year and two years in a row, with no apparent cause, the bronchitis is considered chronic.
Chronic bronchitis is a serious, long-term, medical condition. If left untreated, it can develop into chronic lung disease called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The mucus produced by inflamed airways eventually forms scar tissue in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. The condition can be aggravated by viruses or bacterial infections, leading to flare-ups.
Smoking, or exposure to secondhand smoke, is often the cause of chronic bronchitis; it may also occur due to air pollution, and dust.
Prevention and Treatment
Acute bronchitis can be prevented or minimized by washing your hands frequently and getting an annual flu shot. Quitting smoking and avoiding air pollutants are major steps in preventing chronic bronchitis.
Rest and fluids will help your body rid itself of acute bronchitis. You can alleviate the symptoms with cough medicine and a humidifier.
Early diagnosis for chronic bronchitis is key for preventing it from becoming more severe. Certain medications can help open airways, making it easier to breathe and reduce inflammation.
A health care professional can be invaluable for assistance when you’re coping with an ongoing medical condition, helping you manage your treatment plan and medications. With the help of a licensed caregiver, you can return to your normal activities as quickly as possible.