a woman checking for bronchitis symptoms

Bronchitis Symptoms

Information

Bronchitis is a medical condition characterized by the inflammation of the linings of the bronchi, the airways that facilitate the airflow between the trachea and the lungs. People with this condition may find it difficult to pass air in and out of their lungs. Bronchitis is divided into two types: acute and chronic. Acute bronchitis is usually caused by viruses that cause flu and colds. These viruses are spread through physical contact or through air when coughing. Sometimes, chemicals and bacteria can cause this condition. Those who are exposed to tobacco smoke, fumes, vapors, dust and air pollution are more prone to acute bronchitis. People suffering from acute bronchitis may experience severe symptoms, such as coughing that can last for several weeks. Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, is a serious condition that occurs if the cells lining of the bronchi is constantly inflamed or irritated. This causes a persistent cough accompanied with mucus. The chronic condition usually affects people, particularly women living in the southern United States, with more than 14 million cases being reported annually in the country. Those who are experiencing bronchitis symptoms are advised to visit their doctor so as to prevent more serious bronchitis symptoms that will need medical care, particularly children.

Symptoms

Acute bronchitis caused by an infection generally develops after a person has contracted a cold or flu, which is characterized by sore throat, fever, fatigue, body aches, runny or stuffy nose, diarrhea or vomiting. One of the common bronchitis symptoms is cough, which may last two to three weeks. Clear mucus may accompany the cough, and a green or yellow-colored mucus indicates a bacterial infection. Once the infection is cured, patients may still suffer from dry cough for a few days. Other acute bronchitis symptoms include low fever, chest pain or tightness, and wheezing, a whistling sound produced when breathing. People with acute bronchitis may also experience a feeling of tiredness. If the condition is severe, bronchitis symptoms may include shortness of breath, particularly when doing physical activities. Chronic bronchitis is usually characterized by coughing, chest discomfort and wheezing. The cough may produce significant amounts of slimy substances. Bronchitis symptoms among patients who are in the early phases of the chronic medical condition include coughing every morning and coughing which continues all through the day as the condition becomes worse.

Treatment

Treatment for this condition aims to make breathing easier and alleviate bronchitis symptoms. For acute bronchitis, doctors may recommend lots of fluids, rest, and acetaminophen or aspirin for fever. If the condition is due to bacterial infection, doctors may prescribe antibiotics to patients. They may also prescribe drugs to reduce or relieve cough and treat inflamed airways. A steam or humidifier may loosen mucus and relieve limited air flow and wheezing, while an inhaled medicine may be needed to open the airways. Treatment options for women who are pregnant may be more specialized. People diagnosed with chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may need drugs to help remove mucus and open the airways. These include steroids (inhaled or in pill form) and bronchodilators (inhaled). Doctors may prescribe oxygen therapy for the chronic condition. This form of treatment helps patients to breathe easier and provides their body with oxygen. While you cannot always prevent bronchitis, you can lower your risk from this condition. The most essential step is quitting smoking. A change in job or environment may be essential if you are working in a place where there are huge concentrations of chemicals or dust. Avoiding lung irritants such as air pollution, secondhand smoke, fumes, dust, and vapor will also help lower your risk from bronchitis.

Last Updated: March 24, 2016