Bronchitis

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of your bronchial tubes

which carry air to and from your lungs. People who have bronchitis often cough up thickened mucus, which can be discolored. Bronchitis may be either acute or chronic.

For either acute bronchitis or chronic bronchitis, signs and symptoms may include:

  • Cough
  • Production of mucus (sputum), which can be clear, white, yellowish-gray or green in color — rarely, it may be streaked with blood
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Slight fever and chills
  • Chest discomfort

Acute bronchitis is usually caused by viruses, typically the same viruses that cause colds and flu (influenza). The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is cigarette smoking. Air pollution and dust or toxic gases in the environment or workplace also can contribute to the condition.

Factors that increase your risk of bronchitis include:

  • Cigarette smoke - People who smoke or who live with a smoker are at higher risk of both acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis.
  • Low resistance - This may result from another acute illness, such as a cold, or from a chronic condition that compromises your immune system. Older adults, infants and young children have greater vulnerability to infection.
  • Exposure to irritants on the job. Your risk of developing bronchitis is greater if you work around certain lung irritants, such as grains or textiles, or are exposed to chemical fumes.
  • Gastric reflux - Repeated bouts of severe heartburn can irritate your throat and make you more prone to developing bronchitis.

Although a single episode of bronchitis usually isn't cause for concern, it can lead to pneumonia in some people. Repeated bouts of bronchitis, however, may mean that you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

To reduce your risk of bronchitis:

  • Avoid cigarette smoke. Cigarette smoke increases your risk of chronic bronchitis.
  • Get vaccinated. Many cases of acute bronchitis result from influenza, a virus. Getting a yearly flu vaccine can help protect you from getting the flu. You may also want to consider vaccination that protects against some types of pneumonia.
  • Wash your hands. To reduce your risk of catching a viral infection, wash your hands frequently and get in the habit of using alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
  • Wear a surgical mask. If you have COPD, you might consider wearing a face mask at work if you're exposed to dust or fumes, and when you're going to be among crowds, such as while traveling

How is it diagnosed?

During the first few days of illness, it can be difficult to distinguish the signs and symptoms of bronchitis from those of a common cold.

During the physical exam, your doctor will use a stethoscope to listen closely to your lungs as you breathe.

In some cases, your doctor may suggest the following tests:

  • Chest X-ray
  • Sputum test
  • Pulmonary function tests

How is it treated?

Most cases of acute bronchitis get better without treatment, usually within a couple of weeks.
  • Medications: Cough medicine
  • Other medications. If you have allergies, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), inhaler and other medications to reduce inflammation and open narrowed passages in your lungs.

Consult with experienced Doctors

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