Bronchitis is a condition in which the tubes that carry air to the lungs become inflamed and irritated. Closely following the inflammation and irritation, the tubes become swollen and start to produce mucus, which makes people cough.
There are basically two types of bronchitis: acute and chronic.
Acute bronchitis usually occurs suddenly with little or no warning and lasts for about two to three weeks. In many cases, people tend to get better on their own without going to the doctor for treatment.
Chronic bronchitis is a recurring form of bronchitis that continues to come back. It generally lasts for a long period of time, and it is most common in people who smoke or in those who are exposed to secondhand smoke.
Causes and Symptoms of Bronchitis
Acute bronchitis is caused by a virus in most cases. Bronchitis can develop after a person has had a bout with the flu or a cold. In much rarer instances, it can be caused by bacteria. The development of bronchitis can also be triggered by inhaling certain irritants such as smoke or other environmental pollutants.
There are some other factors that can also increase a person’s risk of developing bronchitis.
- A weakened immune system
- Being an infant or an elderly person
- GERD – (stomach acids can cause a chronic cough to develop)
Most people have a dry, hacking cough that starts to bring up mucus after a few days. In addition to the cough, many people also have a low grade fever and a bit of fatigue.
When people have acute bronchitis, the symptoms usually start about three or four days after developing an upper respiratory infection (such as a cold or the flu). It usually takes two to four weeks for people to get better once they have developed symptoms of bronchitis. It is possible, however, for a cough to last for as long as a month.
It is important to understand the differences between acute bronchitis and pneumonia, as people sometimes mistakenly believe that they only have bronchitis when they actually have pneumonia. Pneumonia, however, is much more serious and is usually characterized by a high fever, shortness of breath, and chills. People with bronchitis do not have these symptoms.
For milder cases, it is perfectly okay for people to treat themselves at home. If you have acute bronchitis, you should drink lots of fluids. Ask your doctor about taking an over the counter cough medicine or decongestant, as these can help to provide you with relief from congestion and coughing. It is also a good idea to have some cough drops or hard candies on hand to help soothe your throat, as it is likely to become sore after a lot of coughing.
People who also suffer from lung or heart disease, asthma, heart failure, or COPD should always make an appointment with their doctor when they experience symptoms of bronchitis. It is very likely that people with these conditions will require more treatment than those who do not.
By Lisa Pecos
1. “What is Bronchitis? What causes Bronchitis?” Medical News Today. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/8888.php. Accessed 22 February 2010.
2. “Bronchitis.” Understanding Bronchitis. http://understanding-bronchitis.com/. Accessed 22 February 2010.
3. “Acute Bronchitis.” WebMd.com. http://www.webmd.com/lung/tc/acute-bronchitis-topic-overview. Accessed 22 February 2010.