Bronchitis is an infection that develops in the bronchi, causing irritation and inflammation in the area. Bronchi refers to thelarge and medium-sized airways of the lungs. It branches off on both side of the trachea (windpipe), and lead to small airways inside the lungs. These minute branches are known as bronchioles.
Producing mucus, the walls of bronchi protects the body by trapping dust particles that can otherwise cause irritation. When an infection inflames the bronchi and causes them to producemore mucus than usual, it develops bronchitis. The body tries to shift this extra mucus through coughing.
Bronchitis can make it hard for a person to breathe and is of two types:
- ACUTE BRONCHITIS: This a temporary inflammation of the airways, which causes a cough and mucus production. This lasts up to three weeks and doesn’t usually cause any problems past that. Acute bronchitismostly affectschildren under the age of five and is more common in the winter season. Often, it develops following a common cold, sore throat or flu.
- CHRONIC BRONCHITIS: This is more serious and keeps coming back. Chronic bronchitis is a daily productive cough that continues for three months a year and at least for two years in a row. It is one of the lung conditions, which are collectively known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This mostly affects the adults over 40 years.
The main symptoms of bronchitis is a hacking cough. In some cases, one may have various problems with breathing. These can be:
- Chest congestion
- Cough with yellow-grey or greenish mucus (phlegm)
- Shortness of breath
- A wheezing or a whistling sound while breathing
Other symptoms of bronchitis include:
- Body aches and chills
- Low fever
- Runny and stuffy nose
- Sore throat
While your bronchial tubes heal, the swelling goes down and the other symptoms are gone, the cough can remain for a few weeks. In case it goes on longer, the problem might be something else.
In most of the cases, bronchitis goes away on its own within a couple of weeks. Although for a rare case, when it is caused by bacteria, doctors prescribe antibiotics. In case of asthma, allergies or wheezing sounds while breathing, an inhaler is also suggested by doctors.
Besides that, following can help to ease the symptoms:
- Drink lots of water
- Take plenty of rest
- Take pain relievers, such as, Ibuprofen(Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), or aspirin
- Use a humidifier or take steam
- Take cough medicines to loosen the mucus like expectorant (like guaifenosin)
Doctors suggest to quit smoking as it helps your bronchial tree heal faster.