Why does bronchitis occur?
Acute bronchitis is sometimes referred to as a chest cold. It can develop after an upper respiratory infection (URI), which you probably know better as the common cold.
Bronchitis occurs when the airways that carry air to your lungs, called the bronchial tubes, become inflamed and irritated. Your bronchial tubes produce excess mucus and cause coughing when they become inflamed.
Usually acute bronchitis is not serious. If it isn’t treated properly it can develop into pneumonia.
What is bronchitis?
Anyone can get bronchitis, depending on which type it is. Here are the two most common kinds of bronchitis that you or your loved ones can get infected with.
Acute bronchitis usually starts with a cold. It is caused by the same types of viruses that cause a common cold or flu. These include rhinovirus and influenza A and B.
Acute bronchitis can also be caused by bacteria, but that is much rarer. It occurs in less than 10% of cases of acute bronchitis.
If you have bronchitis, you may have any of the following symptoms:
- Coughing with mucus
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Low-grade fever
When acute bronchitis isn’t treated properly it could transform into pneumonia.
Unlike bronchitis, which affects the airways that lead to your lungs, pneumonia affects your alveoli. These are the air sacs inside of your lungs that process oxygen.
Pneumonia is much worse than bronchitis. It can be life-threatening in infants, older people, and other people with weakened immune systems.
There is another type of bronchitis called chronic bronchitis.
Chronic bronchitis is caused by the irritation of your airways. This is usually from smoking or your exposure to other irritants such as toxic gasses.
Chronic bronchitis is actually a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD can cause airflow blockage and breathing problems.
Unlike acute bronchitis, chronic bronchitis is not caused by a virus or bacteria. The main cause of chronic bronchitis is cigarette smoking. It may also be caused by air pollution or your work environment.
Symptoms of chronic bronchitis can include:
- Coughing up mucus
- Chest pain
Diagnosis of bronchitis
Only a licensed healthcare professional can diagnose bronchitis.
To diagnose acute bronchitis, your doctor will listen to your symptoms and do a physical exam. There are no specific tests for bronchitis, but your doctor may do blood tests to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.
Your doctor may order a chest x-ray if you have a fever in order to rule out pneumonia.
To diagnose chronic bronchitis, your doctor may call for pulmonary function tests to see how your lungs function.
When testing your lung function, your doctor may use a spirometer, which is a device that you blow into. The spirometer helps find out how much air your lungs can hold and how quickly you can get air out of your lungs.
Treatments for bronchitis
Since acute bronchitis is usually caused by a virus, antibiotics will not help. Acute bronchitis will most likely get better on its own, so treatment is generally focused on relieving your symptoms.
You can try the following measures to feel better:
- Get lots of rest
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially hot liquids such as tea
- Take honey to help with cough, but do not give honey to an infant
- Use sinus rinses or saline nasal sprays
- Use lozenges to help with sore throat, but do not give lozenges to children under four
- Use a humidifier or inhale steam from a hot shower
- Take over-the-counter (OTC) pain medicine such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
Chronic bronchitis can't be cured, but your doctor may recommend any of the following to help manage your symptoms:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids
- Bronchodilators to help your airway stay open
- A mucus clearing device
- Pulmonary rehabilitation
- Oxygen therapy
Possible side effects and complications
There are some possible side effects of the medications used to treat chronic bronchitis. The types of side effects depend on the type of medicines.
Side effects of steroid inhalers can include:
- Sore throat or mouth
- Hoarse voice
- Oral thrush
Side effects of bronchodilators can include:
- Trembling, especially in the hands
- Dry mouth
- Palpitations, which is when you notice your heartbeat
- Cramps in your muscles
- Nausea and vomiting
Oxygen Therapy is generally safe, but it can have the following side effects and risks:
- Dry nose
- Bloody nose
- Morning headache
- Risk of fire as oxygen is flammable
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
American Family Physician: "Acute Bronchitis."
American Lung Association: "Bronchitis (Acute)."
Canadian Family Physician: "Acute bronchitis."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Chest Cold (Acute Bronchitis)."
Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Chronic Bronchitis."
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "Oxygen Therapy."
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "Pneumonia."
National Health Service: "Bronchodilators."
National Health Service: "Steroid inhalers."
Top Best Medicine and Treatment for Bronchitis Related Articles
Acute BronchitisBronchitis is inflammation of the airways in the lung. Acute bronchitis is short in duration (10-20 days) in comparison with chronic bronchitis, which lasts for months to years. Causes of acute bronchitis include viruses and bacteria, which means it can be contagious. Acute bronchitis caused by environmental factors such as pollution or cigarette smoke is not contagious. Common symptoms for acute bronchitis include nasal congestion, cough, headache, sore throat, muscle aches, and fatigue. Acute bronchitis in children also my include runny nose, fever, and chest pain. Treatment for acute bronchitis are OTC pain relievers, cough suppressants (although not recommended in children), and rest. Infrequently antibiotics may be prescribed to treat acute bronchitis.
Bronchitis PictureAcute bronchitis usually comes on quickly and gets better after several weeks. See a picture of Acute Bronchitis and learn more about the health topic.
What's Bronchitis? Symptoms and TreatmentsIs bronchitis contagious? Learn about bronchitis, an inflammation of the lining of the lungs. Explore bronchitis symptoms, treatments and medication for bronchitis.
Bronchitis QuizWhat happens within the body when a person develops bronchitis? Take this quick quiz to learn the causes, symptoms, treatments, and complications of this common respiratory illness.
Chronic BronchitisChronic bronchitis is a cough that occurs daily with production of sputum that lasts for at least 3 months, 2 years in a row. Causes of chronic bronchitis include cigarette smoking, inhaled irritants, and underlying disease processes (such as asthma, or congestive heart failure). Symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, and wheezing. Treatments include bronchodilators and steroids. Complications of chronic bronchitis include COPD and emphysema.
COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a lung condition caused by smoking tobacco, exposure to secondhand smoke, and/or air pollutants. Conditions that accompany COPD include chronic bronchitis, chronic cough, and emphysema.
Symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, wheezing, and chronic cough. Treatment of COPD includes GOLD guidelines, smoking cessation, medications, and surgery. The life expectancy of a person with COPD depends on the stage of the disease.
Emphysema, Chronic Bronchitis, and ColdsIf you have a COPD such as emphysema, avoiding chronic bronchitis and colds is important to avoid a more severe respiratory infection such as pneumonia. Avoiding cigarette smoking, practice good hygeine, stay away from crowds, and alerting your healthcare provider if you have a sinus infection or cold or cough that becomes worse. Treatment options depend upon the severity of the emphysema, bronchitis, or cold combination.
How Do You Get Rid of Bronchitis Naturally?Bronchitis is swelling of airways mostly due to a virus. Rarely, bacteria or fungi can also be the reason. Swelling in bronchial tubes may restrict air to and from your lungs. It typically causes a bad cough, chest discomfort, and fatigue. You may need to consult a doctor to distinguish bronchitis from pneumonia.
How Do You Know if Your Baby has Bronchitis?Acute bronchitis, which is sometimes called a chest cold, can develop after your baby has a cold or upper respiratory infection. Bronchitis occurs when the bronchi, the airways that carry air to the lungs, become irritated and inflamed.
How Do You Know If Your Child Has Bronchitis?Bronchitis is a common problem that affects many children. Learn the signs of bronchitis, what causes it, how doctors diagnose it, and what you can do to treat it.
How Long Does Asthmatic Bronchitis Last?The duration of the disease usually depends on the patient’s overall health and age. In patients with acute bronchitis symptoms may last less than 10 days. In patients with severe asthmatic bronchitis, the symptoms are recurrent and usually last between 30 days to even 2 years with flares and remissions.
Is Bronchitis Contagious Through Kissing?Bronchitis is a common issue that affects many people. Learn the signs of bronchitis, what causes it, how doctors diagnose it, and what you can do to treat it.
What Are the Main Causes of Bronchitis?Bronchitis is an inflammation of the tubes that carry air to and from your lungs. Learn the signs of bronchitis, what causes bronchitis, how doctors diagnose bronchitis, and what you can do to treat bronchitis.
What Helps When You Have Bronchitis?Bronchitis refers to the inflammation of the air-carrying tubes in the lungs (bronchioles). The condition is often associated with persistent, nagging cough with mucus. The condition often starts as an infection of the nose, throat, ears, or sinuses that later moves to the bronchi.
What Is the Treatment for Asthmatic Bronchitis?Asthmatic bronchitis refers to inflammation of the bronchial tubes carrying air inside the lungs that occurs because of asthma. Treatment for asthmatic bronchitis involves bronchodilators, steroids, treating secretions, leukotriene inhibitors, antibiotics, oxygen administration and avoiding triggers.