What is asthmatic bronchitis?
Asthmatic bronchitis refers to inflammation of the bronchial tubes carrying the air inside the lungs (bronchitis) that occurs because of asthma (a medical condition in which the airways become swollen and narrowed and may produce excess mucus). Although there is currently no cure for asthmatic bronchitis, it can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes. Medications are taken by mouth or inhaled and they generally act by opening up or clearing the airways.
Learning to manage flare-ups and controlling symptoms may be the best possible ways to treat asthmatic bronchitis. Below are six common ways to treat asthmatic bronchitis.
Bronchodilators: salbutamol, salmeterol, formoterol, ipratropium, and theophilline
- These drugs can dilate (relax) the bronchioles (smooth muscle of the airways) and allow better airflow through the lungs.
Steroids: beclomethasone, budesonide, and fluticasone
- Both oral and inhaled corticosteroids are used to treat asthmatic bronchitis.
- They may reduce swelling in the airways. These are generally used for immediate relief of acute symptoms.
- The common side effect of these medications is the suppression of the immune system.
Treating secretions: guaifenesin
- Excess mucus is a complication of asthmatic bronchitis and can increase breathing difficulties.
- It is important to keep mucous secretions thin by staying hydrated.
- Drinking a lot of fluid and using a cool-mist humidifier can thin secretions and make them easier to clear.
- Medications such as guaifenesin are used to loosen mucus secretions. Guaifenesin is available over the counter (OTC).
Leukotriene modifiers: montelukast sodium, zafirlukast, and zileuton
- These medications block chemicals that cause the airways to narrow and tighten.
- Antibiotics are used in the treatment of asthmatic bronchitis only if an active bacterial infection is identified.
- Temporary administration of oxygen or even hospitalization may be required in very severe cases of asthmatic bronchitis, but this is usually rare.
Treatment also involves avoiding triggers by following these tips
- Wash bed linens and blankets in hot water.
- Dust and vacuum regularly.
- Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) air filter at home.
- Keep pets out of your bedroom.
- Avoid pollutants as much as possible.
- Avoid smoking and exposure.
- Wash hands frequently to prevent the spread of infection.
How do I know if I have asthmatic bronchitis?
Asthmatic bronchitis occurs when asthma and severe bronchitis co-exist. In general, asthmatic bronchitis is not contagious because the condition is generally caused by irritants, not by an infection. However, in some cases, it can be either a bacterial or viral infection. In those cases, bronchitis is contagious. Symptoms of asthmatic bronchitis are a combination of the symptoms of asthma and bronchitis, which may include the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest or wheezing
- Excess mucus
What are the risk factors and triggers of asthmatic bronchitis?
Triggers and risk factors:
- People who suffer from allergies, such as hay fever, neurodermatitis, or cradle cap, have an increased risk of bronchial asthma (in response to exposure to triggers including dust, mold, or pollen).
- Changes in the weather
- Smokers and passive smokers are also more susceptible.
- Frequent respiratory tract infections also can lead to the development of bronchial asthma.
- Risk factors may also include low birth weight and excess weight in childhood.
Bronchial asthma is separated into allergic and nonallergic (intrinsic) asthma according to its respective triggers.
- Allergic asthma: Symptoms are triggered by an allergic reaction, which means that the immune system of the affected person reacts more intensely than necessary to an often harmless substance. Allergic asthma often initially presents in early childhood and adolescence and is often explained by a hereditary predisposition.
- Intrinsic asthma: Initially presents between the ages of 30-40 years old and is caused by very different factors. Triggers may include respiratory tract infections, genetic incompatibility with certain medications, or chemical or toxic substances from the environment (smog, ozone, dust, etc.).
Asthma is prevalent in severely overweight women. Specific characteristics also are associated with asthma in smokers.
How do doctors diagnose asthmatic bronchitis?
The following tests help to diagnose asthmatic bronchitis:
- Spirometry (lung function test): This involves an examination of the quantity of inhaled and exhaled air. The doctor also examines the lungs through auscultation (the stethoscope) to determine the symptomatic breathing sounds.
- Provocation test: To detect a hypersensitive bronchial system, the patient inhales a test substance. If the bronchi respond to this stimulus by narrowing, there is hypersensitivity.
- Bronchospasm test: A lung function test is initially performed for this test. If the bronchi are constricted at this time, the patient inhales a medication to dilate the bronchi. If the measured value shows an improvement, the diagnosis is confirmed.
- Allergy test: If the connection with an allergy is suspected, then an allergy test is carried out (blood test with subsequent skin test).
- Other investigations may be performed to exclude other lung diseases.
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Griffith DE, Garcia JG. "Asthmatic bronchitis." Semin Respir Infect 3.1 Mar. 1988: 27-39. PMID: 3283880. <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3283880/>.
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