Bronchitis - general information
Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of bronchial tubes that can be acute or chronic. Acute bronchitis is far more common as it can occur after infections such as common cold or other respiratory infections. Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, is more serious and it results from long-term irritation and inflammation of bronchial tubes, for example due to smoking or due to exposure to various fumes.
Acute bronchitis only lasts a couple of days, although cough can be present for longer. However, if acute bronchitis occurs frequently, it probably indicates chronic bronchitis.
The symptoms of both acute and chronic bronchitis include cough, usually with mucus or sputum which can be clear, yellowish, white, greenish or gray, low grade fever, chills, fatigue and chest discomfort.
The cough associated with bronchitis can linger for quite some time, even for weeks in acute bronchitis. In chronic bronchitis, the cough is productive, meaning it involves mucus, and it lasts for at least three months for two consecutive years. The cough is not necessarily constant - it may go away only to reappear again soon.
As for the treatment, antibiotics are rarely prescribed as in most cases bronchitis is caused by viruses. However, in case of bacterial bronchitis, it is necessary to take a course of antibiotics. Cough drops or syrup can help with the cough bouts, but it is recommended to take them at night. Drinking plenty of fluids is important because it breaks up mucus, making it easier to expectorate.
Prevention of bronchitis
Since the most common cause of acute bronchitis includes viral infections, such as common cold, making sure not to contract the virus is the best way of prevention against bronchitis. It is recommended to avoid closed and confined space, like offices, schools and such, but since this is not always possible, it is recommended to take special care of personal hygiene, to frequently wash hands and to avoid touching the nose and the mouth.
Many people decide to get vaccinated against seasonal flu. This greatly reduces the chances of contracting the virus and it prevents bronchitis resulting from viral respiratory infections.
Cigarette smoke is a major factor for developing respiratory infections and it can also lead to chronic bronchitis. In addition to cutting down or quitting smoking, it is also advised to avoid second-hand smoke.
During wintertime, the indoor air often becomes dry due to heating. Dry air is not favorable for the lungs and it is recommended to use humidifiers or vaporizers, especially in the bedroom.