What is bronchitis?
The term "bronchitis" refers to an infection of the bronchial tubes, also known as airways or bronchi. In fact, the infection leads to inflammation and irritation of the bronchi. To clarify, this disease is behind coughing thick and discolored mucus.
While acute bronchitis usually result from a viral infection, chronic bronchitis majorly is due to smoking or smoke inhalation. As a matter of fact, chronic bronchitis can be very serious since it's a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
What causes bronchitis?
Causes of acute bronchitis:
- Infection by viruses such as influenza viruses (flu) and SARS-CoV-2 (covid_19)
- Rarely, bacterial infection such as Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and Mycoplasma pneumonia.
- Inhalation of smoke
- Air pollution
Causes of chronic bronchitis:
- Active smoking of cigarettes
- Inhalation of smoke
- Inhaling irritants including smog, toxic chemicals, and air pollutants
- Recurrent exposure to viral or bacterial infections
- History of asthma, bronchiectasis, and cystic fibrosis
- Frequent exposure to dust and airborne chemicals (ammonia, sulfur dioxide)
- Chronic gastroesophageal reflux
- Chest pain
- Abdominal pain
- Pain and discomfort
- Thick mucus
- Difficulty breathing
- Mucus that can be white, clear, gray or green
Moreover, acute bronchitis might be associated with fever, body pain, runny nose and sore throat.
Risk factors of bronchitis:
Without doubt, being in the spectrum of the following risk factors, means you are more likely to have the disease.
- Excessive tobacco smoking: A smoker or someone who lives with a smoker is at greater risk of developing both acute and chronic bronchitis.
- Age: The increase in age is associated with chronic bronchitis.
- Weak immunity: Easily catching an infection because of an immune system problem. Besides, infants, children and elders are naturally more prone to infections.
- Frequent irritants inhalation: As a result of exposure to certain lung irritants, such as dust and chemical fumes, you're more likely to develop bronchitis.
- Chronic gastric reflux: The disease is more likely to develop if you experience severe heartburn repeatedly.
How long does bronchitis last?
The duration depends on whether the disease is acute (Chest cold) or chronic. Therefore:
- Acute bronchitis duration: Basically this type symptoms lasts for about 2 weeks, while the cough might persist for about 8 weeks.
- Chronic bronchitis duration: During the course of two years, there must be more than 3 months of chronic coughing. In other words, once recovery occurs, a recurrence of new episodes for 2 years takes place.
When to see a doctor?
Do not hesitate to consult your doctor if you experience any of the following:
- A cough that persists beyond a 3 weeks
- A high fever
- Have unregular or bloody mucus color
- Inability to sleep
- Hard breathing or chest pain
To begin with, your doctor will examine the sounds coming from the lungs via a stethoscope and ask questions about your sputum color.
- Spirometry: In general, this is a measurement of pulmonary function. In brief, it measures the amount of air that can be forced out in a single breath. When asthma, emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are suspected, spirometry may be used to diagnose the condition.
- Chest x-ray: It is important to evaluate whether you have pneumonia or another condition that can explain the cough. Smokers and elderly should especially have their chest X-rays taken.
- Complete blood count: If a person is experiencing fever, the doctor may order a complete blood count and chemistry. The white blood count might be slightly high in case of infection.
- Microbiological testing: The potential effects of antibiotics can be determined by testing your sputum, and allergies can also be detected through sputum testing.
How to prevent bronchitis:
To avoid the disease, it is necessary to follow these steps:
- Avoid smoking: Certainly, smoking is a major cause of chronic bronchitis, so imagine the risk decrease once you avoid or stop smoking.
- Stay away from smokers: Indeed, inhaling smoke is also as bad for your health; hence, do not gamble with your health.
- Wear a face mask: If the occupation or work environment includes spending everyday with irritant, it's better than you keep a mask on. Furthermore, if you're close to someone who has flu or covid-19, the mask for both of you is a major prevention method for transmission.
- Keep up with your hygiene: Actually, this includes hand washing whenever is necessary, in order to eliminate the possibility of germs entering your system.
- Vaccinate against lung viruses: This includes influenza A and B, and covid_19 vaccines for a boosted immunization.
How to treat bronchitis:
- To treat cough: As a result of their effectiveness in chronic and acute bronchitis and cough, dextromethorphan and codeine are majorly used in clinical practice to suppress cough.
- For wheezing: A beta-agonist is commonly used for the treatment of the acute type that causes wheezing.
- To reduce inflammation: The inflammation can be treated with Prednisone and other steroids.
- For infection symptoms: Pain killers can deal with headaches, throat and body pains, and antipyretics can lower fever.
- For narrow airways: This is the case in COPD, asthma or allergies. Indeed, your doctor might recommend an inhaler.
For chronic bronchitis:
- Developing COPD
- Increase in mortality
- A bad quality of life
- Cardiac disease
- Airflow obstruction and lung function deterioration
For acute bronchitis:
- Skipping school or work
- Developing secondary pneumonia
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome
- Respiratory failure
How does bronchitis feel like?
A person with this disease can have a hard quality of life overall. To Illustrate, patients feels their chest tight or blocked, and it becomes hard to breathe. Although the acute type will resolve on its own after a couple of weeks, the chronic type can get serious. Thus, the patient will miss on a lot of classes, gets his job hindered and experience painful days. Therefore, it's important to take the measures previously mentioned to prevent and treat bronchitis once it occurs.
-Widysanto A, Mathew G. Chronic Bronchitis. [Updated 2021 Jul 17]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-.
-Singh A, Avula A, Zahn E. Acute Bronchitis. [Updated 2022 Feb 17]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-.
-John Hopkins Medicine "Acute bronchitis"
-Mayo clinic "Bronchitis"
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