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Last Updated: Jun 02, 2020
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Bronchitis: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

About Symptoms Causes Precautions Diagnosis Treatment Home Remedy Recovery

What is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is a lung or respiratory disorder caused by viruses, bacteria or other particles where bronchial tubes gets inflamed or swelled. This condition restricts the movement of air between the mouth and nose and the lungs. In such condition, it is very difficult to breathe as the air passage gets packed with mucus or phlegm. In bronchitis disease, bronchi gets affected in which infection irritates it and it makes usually high amount of mucus that is tried to remove through coughing process.

This disease can be either acute or chronic in nature where inflammation of airways last for up to three weeks or three months to two year timeframe respectively. Cigarette smoker are more susceptible for bronchitis like respiratory diseases causing one serious condition of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Generally, acute bronchitis is also known as chest cold occurring due to cold or viral infection and after treatment it does not cause any future problems.

What are the Symptoms Of Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is divided in two types as acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis depending upon its period of time and effects but there are some common signs and symptoms between them:

  • Only cough or cough with mucus or phlegm that looks like white, clear, yellowish-gray or greenish in color.
  • Discomfort or congestion in chest with shortness of breath
  • During breathing whistling or wheezing sound
  • Sore throat
  • Blocked or runny stuffy nose
  • Body pain and chills with fever
  • Headaches and fatigue

There are some different symptoms observed in acute bronchitis which are similar to flu condition like headaches, body aches, tightening in chest etc. and in some cases like children, due to increased mucus, vomiting occurs. On other side, a person suffering from chronic bronchitis experiencing signs like wheezing, persistent cough with build-up amount of phlegm, recurring chest infections, breathing difficulties. This chronic bronchitis carries productive cough for the longer period of time.

What Causes Bronchitis?

In respiratory system, trachea and bronchi are essential for air transfer from mouth and nose to lungs where bronchi is further divided in to small and small airway of lungs called as bronchioles. These bronchioles and bronchi get affected b viruses, bacteria or other particles making damage to the lungs and airways tissues.

If symptoms are similar to flu and coughing lasts for several days, it is acute bronchitis. The reasons behind the inflammation in acute bronchitis are tobacco smoke inhalation, dust, fumes, vapors and air pollution. Smoking in any form is most common reason behind the occurrence of chronic bronchitis as well as other factors like long term exposure to air pollution, dust, fumes, and repeated episodes of acute bronchitis.

Sometimes other environmental or physical factors like gastric reflux causing severe heartburn also irritates throat and making it more prone to bronchitis and working at place that have exposure to lung irritants such as grains or textile mills or chemical fume leading to bronchitis.

What are the Precautions For Bronchitis?

As a preventive measure of bronchitis, following are some points:

  • It is mandatory to avoid cigarette smoking as it causes damage to the lungs and risking towards bronchitis.
  • Vaccines are advised for flu, pneumonia like diseases which are also reason behind occurrence of bronchitis.
  • It is also advised to maintain hygiene of body as washing hands frequently with essential sanitizers or soaps prevent against risk of catching viral infection.
  • Use of facial masks to avoid spreading of infection as well as exposure to dust or fumes if visiting any places which are crowded.
  • Avoid visiting such areas where person smokes or lung irritants are detected.
  • Residential places where diesel-power plants or busy roads should be avoided because it doubles the risk of chronic bronchitis.

How is Bronchitis Diagnosed?

Patient’s medical history is asked as well as physical examination with the use of stethoscope will be done by medical professional to find out any abnormal sounds in the lungs. Further questions about coughing, flu like symptoms, exposure to dust or fume etc. are asked by doctor and followed by below mentioned tests:

  • Chest X-ray- If a smoker is facing bronchitis disorder than x-rays are very important to identify the presence of pneumonia or other conditions.
  • Sputum tests- Mucus sample collected from patient is tested for signs or allergies.
  • Pulmonary function test- With the use of spirometer, pulmonary function test is performed that measures condition of air passage.

What is the Best Treatment for Bronchitis?

People with suffering from symptoms like coughing for more than 3 weeks or mucus with blood, fever lasted for more than 3 days, chest pain or recurring bronchitis are recommended for treatment of OTC cough suppressants, bronchodilators, mucolytic, antibiotics etc. Below are some treatment plans suitable for bronchitis:

  • Cough medicine- they are useful to bring up mucus and removal of irritants from the lungs through coughing.
  • Bronchodilators- they are agents which are dilating bronchial tubes and helps in removal of mucus present in lungs or air passages.
  • Mucolytic- They are acting on mucus by thinning or un- bounding it from the air passages.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation- With the use of such program, patients experienced improved breathing patterns.
  • Oxygen therapy- In this therapy, oxygen intake is increased by supplying it that helps in dealing breathlessness like condition.
  • Antibiotics- If bronchitis has occurred due to bacterial infection, then certain antibiotics are prescribed by medical professional.

For chronic bronchitis, patients are prescribed for oral or inhaled steroids, yearly flu and/or pneumonia vaccination.

What is the Best Home Remedy for Bronchitis?

Some behavioral remedies are suggested for people suffering from bronchitis as mentioned below:

  • Avoid activities that irritate the lung or interfere in lungs function.
  • Drink lots of water as it can help in losing up the mucus stick to airways.
  • Humidifiers and hot shower are useful in dealing with symptoms like limited airflow or wheezing. It is highly advised to clean properly the humidifier as it may have growth of fungi or bacteria if left un-cleaned.
  • Perform certain exercise that can help in breathing patterns as well as strengthens the muscles of the respiratory system.
  • Don't perform such activities that cause rise in breathing.

How Long Does It Take To Recover From Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is categorised in acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis. Acute bronchitis is normally occurring because of infections or exposure to dust, chemical fumes or any other lung irritant resulting into inflammation of the airways of lungs. Cough lasting for 3-4 days in dry form and converting into cough with mucus remains for three to four weeks.

The treatment plan should be followed in the manner as prescribed and acute bronchitis went away in 3-4 weeks if lungs are not much damaged and working properly. A cigarette smoker is at higher risk of occurring chronic bronchitis as it have cough with mucus or phlegm and sometimes blood, too.

Once treatment is started and followed properly, then chronic bronchitis needs recovery time-period of minimum three months to two constructive years.

Popular Questions & Answers

Hello doctor I am 30 year old n 5 month pregnant. I am suffering from sinus. Now my nose is totally blocked. I am using otrivin twice a day. Without otrivin I am not able to breathe through nose. When my nose blocks my head also starts aching. Steam is also not working. Don't know what to do. please help.

MBBS, Diploma in Otorhinolaryngology (DLO), DNB (ENT), DOHNS (A), MNAMS (Membership of the National Academy) - ENT
ENT Specialist, Delhi
You are having rhinitis medicamentosa. It is due to indiscriminate use of otrivin drops. Read about it. Schedule an online consult for an optimum solution. Otherwise the problem can worsen and cause more discomfort.

Hi I am abdelrahman 32 years in egypt, I have been coughing for more that 4 week going for 5th week I do not know reason, I took vitamin c and zinc vitamins also antibiotic did not work, I cough when I talk if I been expose to cold air or drink coffee or change position, no mucus, I do not cough when I sleep, I have pain in throat, no fever no other symptoms at first there was like pain in back of head headache.

MBBS Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, Diploma in Otorhinolaryngology (DLO), MRCS- Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, DLO RCS England, FRCS
ENT Specialist, Bangalore
Dear Mr. lybrate-user, the best suggestion is to consult either an ent surgeon or a pulmonologist (chest physician) any cough for more than 3 weeks need to be thoroughly investigated. It can come form many reasons. A dry throat due to gerd can cau...

Polyps in throat and dry throat and flue symptoms from last 5,6 months. Doctor prescribed after inspection two medicine. One is inhaler (salmeterol & fluticasone combination (flomist)) second is nasal spray (fluticasone (flomist)). It's been two months polyps have reduced but still exist. Which one out of two medicine I can stop?

MBBS Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, Diploma in Otorhinolaryngology (DLO), MRCS- Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, DLO RCS England, FRCS
ENT Specialist, Bangalore
Dear Mr. lybrate-user, ideally you should be asking the question to your doctor who prescribed the treatment. Polyps commonly occur in the nose and are treated with low dose steroid nasal spray (fluticasone) usually for 3- 4 months or longer based...
1 person found this helpful

I am a 54 years old male. I have been advised levolin 0.63 mg with budecort 1 mg respules with nebulizer. I have allergic bronchial asthma since childhood. Is it better to have duolin in place of levolin along with budecort? I have also been prescribed pulmoclear, alaspan tablets twice a day and wysolone 30 tablet once a day.

MD - Pulmonary Medicine, MBBS Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery
Pulmonologist, Bangalore
Mr. lybrate-user, the medications are all messed up. U do not require nebulisation everyday and wysolone is not the answer. Such high dose eveeyday can hve so many side effects.

I was taking montair lc for 10 days. For cough. Now from 5 days I am having neck pain a nd shoulder pain weakness in arms. Also sleeplessness and dizziness all days and gas pains also. Is it a side effects of medicines or something else. What should I do. Still I have little cough.

MBBS Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, Diploma in Otorhinolaryngology (DLO), MRCS- Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, DLO RCS England, FRCS
ENT Specialist, Bangalore
Dear Ms. lybrate-user, all the above symptoms that you describe are known side effects of montelukast. In my practice, I reserve montelukast only to patients with long term problems along with asthma and generally avoid using it for allergic rhini...

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