- Emphysema, Chronic Bronchitis, and Colds Center
- Understanding COPD Slideshow
- COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) Quiz
- Energy Foods for COPD Slideshow Pictures
- Find a local Pulmonologist in your town
- What is emphysema and chronic bronchitis?
- What happens with emphysema and chronic bronchitis and colds?
- Why should I take colds seriously with emphysema or chronic bronchitis?
- Which cold treatment should I use with emphysema or chronic bronchitis?
- Can I prevent colds if I have emphysema or chronic bronchitis?
If you have emphysema or chronic bronchitis, you know how miserable it feels when you catch a cold. After all, breathing is difficult enough with a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Not only does catching a cold worsen your ability to breathe and be active, but the cold virus increases your chance of getting a more serious respiratory tract infection. Here's what you must know to stay well.
What is emphysema and chronic bronchitis?
Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are chronic (long-term) lung diseases that make it hard to breathe. Both diseases are chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD), meaning they are conditions that cause a limitation in airflow. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis can occur separately or together and are usually the result of cigarette smoking. In addition, although it happens rarely, a genetic form of emphysema can occur early in adulthood, even if you never smoked.
In the United States, COPD is vastly under diagnosed. While only 15 to 20 percent of smokers are diagnosed with COPD, experts believe the majority of smokers develop some degree of airflow obstruction.
Emphysema comes on gradually after years of exposure to irritants such as cigarette smoke. With emphysema, the tiny air sacs in the lungs become damaged. Because the tiny sacs lose their "stretch," less air gets in and out of the lungs. This causes you to feel short of breath.
With chronic bronchitis, the airways that carry air to the lungs are inflamed and produce a lot of mucus. The mucus and inflammation cause the airways to narrow or become obstructed, making it difficult to breathe. Once the airways are irritated over a long period, the lining of the airways becomes thickened. This thickening of the airways results in an irritating cough, hampered airflow, and lung scarring. The damaged airways then become a breeding place for bacterial infections such as pneumonia.
What happens with emphysema and chronic bronchitis and colds?
A cold is a viral respiratory illness that mainly affects your nose and throat but in some instances can affect your airways. When you have emphysema or chronic bronchitis, you already have some difficulty breathing because of the damaged airways and lungs. Catching a respiratory virus along with COPD can hinder breathing even more and can cause the following changes in your symptoms:
Why should I take colds seriously with emphysema or chronic bronchitis?
Catching a cold with emphysema or chronic bronchitis may also lead to bacterial infections such as pneumonia. This occurs because of the airway obstruction and the inability to cough out infected secretions of mucus.
Sometimes, patients with COPD are hospitalized because of a respiratory infection and the worsening of their symptoms. Treatment may include inhaled medications, oxygen, and antibiotics to treat any bacterial infection. Antibiotics do not treat a cold.
To avoid more serious problems with emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and colds, it's important to always alert your doctor if your cold symptoms get worse. Don't wait until you have more serious breathing problems to contact your doctor.
Which cold treatment should I use with emphysema or chronic bronchitis?
First, it is important to stay on your prescribed medications for emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Then, to decide how to treat cold symptoms, it's best to talk with your doctor. You might treat the body aches and fever associated with a cold with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. In addition, you should avoid antihistamines that thicken mucus and make it even more difficult to cough up.
Most over-the-counter cold remedies are generally safe for people with emphysema and chronic bronchitis. However, decongestants raise blood pressure and some of the medications used to treat emphysema and chronic bronchitis also raise heart rate. So, use decongestants with caution. Again, ask your doctor about medications for cold symptoms.
Can I prevent colds if I have emphysema or chronic bronchitis?
The following guidelines can help:
- Good hygiene can decrease respiratory infections such as colds. Prevent
the spread of a cold virus by making sure you and your family members wash
your hands regularly.
- Check with your doctor about a pneumonia and
influenza vaccine. You need
a flu shot every year. One pneumonia shot is usually enough to protect you
from a specific type of bacterial pneumonia.
- Avoid crowds during cold and flu season, since colds and flu can cause
serious problems for people with COPD.
- Pay attention to healthy lifestyle habits by avoiding cigarette smoke
and air pollutants; eating a balanced, healthy diet; and
exercising to stay
- Sinus infections can trigger breathing problems for those with emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Be aware of your sinus symptoms and report them immediately to your doctor to prevent worsening of breathing difficulties.
WebMD Medical Reference
SOURCES: American Lung Association: Need Help For Treatment Decisions with COPD? American Lung Association: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Fact Sheet. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: COPD: Learn to Breathe Better. Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD): GOLD Guidelines At-A-Glance Desk Reference.
Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on December 19, 2007
©2007 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Emphysema, Chronic Bronchitis, and Colds - Experience
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Emphysema, Chronic Bronchitis, and Colds - Treatment
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Emphysema, Chronic Bronchitis, and Colds - Prevention
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Top Emphysema, Chronic Bronchitis, and Colds Related Articles
Bronchitis SlideshowIs bronchitis contagious? Learn about bronchitis, an inflammation of the lining of the lungs. Bronchitis can be aggravated from colds, cigarette smoking, COPD, and other lung conditions. Explore bronchitis symptoms and treatments.
Chronic RhinitisChronic rhinitis and post-nasal drip symptoms include an itchy, runny nose, sneezing, itchy ears, eyes, and throat. Seasonal allergic rhinitis (also called hay fever) usually is caused by pollen in the air. Perennial allergic rhinitis is a type of chronic rhinitis and is a year-round problem, often caused by indoor allergens, such as dust, animal dander, and pollens that may exist at the time. Treatment of chronic rhinitis and post nasal drip are dependent upon the type of rhinitis condition.
Common ColdThe common cold (viral upper respiratory tract infection) is a contagious illness that may be caused by various viruses. Symptoms include a stuffy nose, headache, cough, sore throat, and maybe a fever. Antibiotics have no effect upon the common cold, and there is no evidence that zinc and vitamin C are effective treatments.
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 include GOLD guidelines, smoking cessation, medications, and surgery. The life expectancy of a person with COPD depends on the stage of the disease.
Energy Foods for COPDBoost your energy and combat COPD with these diet tips. Which foods can help patients with COPD? Which foods to avoid for COPD? Learn more about how diet can affect lung health.
COPD SlideshowCOPD is a pulmonary disorder caused by obstructions in the airways of the lungs leading to breathing problems. Learn about COPD symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options. COPD may be complicated by chronic bronchitis or emphysema.
COPD vs. Emphysema Differences Similarities
COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is the term doctors and other health care professionals use to describe a group of serious, progressive (worsens over time), chronic lung diseases that include emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and sometimes asthma. The number one cause of COPD or emphysema, is smoking, and smoking is the third leading cause of death in the US. When a person first develops COPD, he or she may not have any symptoms. As the disease progresses, the symptoms worsen and become more severe and include:
- Difficulty breathing with exertion or physical activity, which in the advanced stages, eventually leads to breathlessness all of the time.
- Chronic cough
- Excessive phlegm production
- Upper respiratory infections like the flu or common cold.
- A barrel-shaped chest
- A bluish tint to the skin from lack of oxygen
- Chest tightness
- varenicline (Chantix) to quit smoking
- The antidepressant and bupropion (Zyban) to reduce nicotine withdrawals
- Drugs that are prescribed for another condition (off label), for example, nortriptyline (Pamelor) and clonidine (Catapres)
- Short-term bronchodilators, for example, albuterol (Ventolin, Proventil)
- Long-term bronchodilators, for example, salmeterol (Serevent) and formoterol (Foradil)
- Anticholinergic bronchodilators, for example, ipratropium (Atrovent) and tiotropium (Spiriva)
- Combined drugs using steroids and long acting bronchodilators
- Roflumilast (Daxas, Daliresp)
You can prevent getting COPD or emphysema if you:
- Quit smoking and making healthy lifestyle changes
- Avoid secondhand smoke
- Avoid home and workplace air pollutants
- Prevent upper respiratory tract infections
There is a genetic cause of COPD called alpha-1 antitrypsin.
CDC. "Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)." Updated: Sep 16, 2016.
NIH; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. "COPD National Action Plan." Updated: May 15, 2017.
NIH; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. "What is COPD?" Updated: Apr 28, 2017.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)." Updated: Oct 31, 2014.
Victoria State Government. "Emphysema." Updated: Nov 2014.
Sharafkhaneh, A. et al. Emphysema. Proc Am Thorac Soc. 2008 May 1; 5(4): 475–477. doi: 10.1513/pats.200708-126ET
Boka, K. "Emphysema." Medscape. Updated: Aug 31. 2016.
Kleinschmidt, P. "Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Emphysema in Emergency Medicine." Medscape. Updated: Jun 08, 2017.
CT Scan vs MRI
CT scan (computerized tomography) is a procedure that uses X-rays to scan and take images of cross-sections of parts of the body. CT scan can help diagnose broken bones, tumors or lesions in areas of the body, blood clots in the brain, legs, and lung, and lung infections or diseases like pneumonia or emphysema.
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a procedure that uses strong magnetic fields and radiofrequency energy to make images of parts of the body, particularly, the organs and soft tissues like tendons and cartilage.
Both CT and MRI are painless, however, MRI can be more bothersome to some individuals who are claustrophobic, or suffer from anxiety or panic disorders due to the enclosed space and noise the machine makes.
MRI costs more than CT, while CT is a quicker and more comfortable test for the patient.
HemoglobinHemoglobin is the oxygen-carrying protein molecule in the blood, specifically in the red blood cells. High hemoglobin count may be caused by dehydration, smoking, emphysema, tumors, or abuse of Epogen. Low levels of hemoglobin may be caused by anemia, blood loss, nutritional deficiency, bone marrow problems, chemotherapy, kidney failure, or sickle cell disease.
How to Stop Coughing
Coughing is a reflex that helps a person clear their airways of irritants. There are many causes of an excessive or severe cough including irritants like cigarette and secondhand smoke, pollution, air fresheners, medications like beta blockers and ACE inhibitors, the common cold, GERD, lung cancer, and heart disease.
Natural and home remedies to help cure and soothe a cough include stay hydrated, gargle saltwater, use cough drops or lozenges, use herbs and supplements like ginger, mint, licorice, and slippery elm, and don't smoke.
Over-the-counter products (OTC)to cure and soothe a cough include cough suppressants and expectorants, and anti-reflux drugs.
Prescription drugs that help cure a cough include narcotic medications, antibiotics, inhaled steroids, and anti-reflux drugs like proton pump inhibitors or PPIs, for example, omeprazole (Prilosec), rabeprazole (Aciphex), and pantoprazole (Protonix).
Pneumonia FactsPneumonia is inflammation of the lungs caused by fungi, bacteria, or viruses. Symptoms and signs include cough, fever, shortness of breath, and chills. Antibiotics treat pneumonia, and the choice of the antibiotic depends upon the cause of the infection.
Polycythemia (High Red Blood Cell Count)
Polycythemia (elevated red blood cell count) is a rare blood disease in which the body produces too many red blood cells. Causes of polycythemia are either primary (acquired or genetic mutations) or secondary (diseases, conditions, high altitude). Examples of primary polycythemia include:
- Excessive sweating
- Unintended weight loss
- Gouty arthritis, usually in big toe
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling pressure or fullness on the left side of the abdomen where the spleen is located.
- Vision problems
- Heavy bleeding from minor cuts
- Bleeding from the gums
- Redness in the face
- A burning feeling in the hands and feet
Complications of a high red blood cell count include blood clots, heart attack, stroke, enlarged liver and spleen, angina (heart pain), AML leukemia, and heart failure. Blood clots in the liver or kidney can cause sudden, intense pain. Treatment goals for patients with polycythemia are to manage symptoms and reduce the risk of complications like heart attack and stroke.
REFERENCE: NIH. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. "What Causes Polycythemia Vera"? Updated: Mar 20, 2011.
Sore Throat Home Remedies and Treatment
Natural and home remedies for sore throat symptoms and pain relief include essential oils, licorice gargles, slippery elm leaves, raw garlic, Throat Coat tea, sage, and acupuncture. Typical symptoms of a sore throat include throat pain, coughing, sneezing, fever, and swollen lymph nodes. Sore throats are caused by viral (common cold, flu, mumps), bacterial (tonsillitis, some STDs), toxins, allergens, trauma or injury, or "mechanical causes" (breathing through the mouth).