What is Bronchitis?
Bronchitis is an inflammation of the air passages that extend from windpipe into the lungs. This may be caused by a virus, bacteria, smoking or the inhalation of chemical pollutants or dust. When the cells of the bronchial-lining tissue are irritated beyond a certain point, the tiny hairs (cilia) within them, which normally trap and eliminate pollutants stop functioning. As a result, they become clogged by debris and the irritation increases. In response, secretion of mucus is increased resulting in cough and if severe enough shortness of breath.
Bronchitis comes in two forms: acute (less than 6 weeks) or chronic (recurring frequently for more than two years):
This is responsible for the hacking cough and phlegm production that accompany an upper respiratory tract infection. In most cases, it is viral in origin, sometimes it is caused by bacteria. The mucosal area will return to normal after several days unless there is an underlying lung problem. The presence of fever, chills, muscle ache and chest pain suggest a more serious infection like pneumonia. Chest x-ray should be ordered.
Chronic bronchitis is defined as excessive mucus secretion in the bronchi presenting with a chronic or recurrent mucus-producing cough that lasts three or more months and recurs year after year. Chronic bronchitis may result from a series of attacks of acute bronchitis, or it may evolve gradually because of heavy smoking or inhalation of polluted air. When the mucus producing layer of the bronchial lining has thickened, narrowing the airways to the point where breathing becomes increasingly more difficult. When the cilia cannot sweep the air clean of foreign irritants, the air passages become more vulnerable to infection. This results in further tissue damage. Unlike acute bronchitis, chronic bronchitis is an ongoing, serious disease.
- Persistent cough
- Productive cough
- Shortness of breath
- Chest x-ray
- Blood test example blood count
- Sputum test
- Lung Function test
The doctor will decide on above tests if indicated and necessary.
- Plenty of rest
- Adequate fluid intake
- Avoid smoke and fumes
- Stop smoking in chronic bronchitis
- Cough syrup
- Inhaled or oral steroid if severe
- Oxygen therapy if severe
- Antibiotic if indicated
If you have chronic bronchitis, it is advisable to stop smoking and have an annual flu vaccination.