Bronchitis: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

What is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is a chest infection. It occurs because of inflammation within the lining of the bronchial tubes. These tubes transport air to and from the lungs. (x) A hallmark symptom shows thickened, discolored mucus. Bronchitis can either be chronic or acute and usually develops from respiratory infections or the common cold. Acute bronchitis is common and infectious, while chronic bronchitis is more serious, longer-lasting and noninfectious. If you think you have bronchitis, call your medical provider and get, it verified and treated.

History of Bronchitis

The ancient Greeks treated the bronchial symptoms with garlic, cinnamon, pepper and turpentine. As the cultures changed, other treatments became known. They included ipecac (South American shrub) coffee and potassium nitrate. (x)

Today, chronic bronchitis and emphysema fall under the umbrella of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) as a group of lung conditions that obstruct airflow and make it difficult to breathe. How they arrived under this category begins during the mid-17th century. Theophile Bonet, a Swiss-born medical doctor, performed 3,000 autopsies on his patients. Through his writings, he discusses and explains the effects of emphysema and establishes COPD. (x)

The naming and description of bronchitis happened in 1808 by Dr. Charles Badham, where he describes inflammatory changes in the mucous membrane. As a result, doctors viewed a variety of medical conditions differently. (x)

In 1821, Dr. Rene Laennec invented the stethoscope and became the father of chest medicine. He compares the relationship between chronic bronchitis and emphysema to COPD. He writes about how air trapped in alveoli is because of an obstruction in chronic bronchitis and asthma. (x)

By the mid-1970s, Dr. Charles Fletcher substantially connected smoking to COPA, particularly chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Stop smoking helps slow and lessen COPA. (x)

Difference Between Acute and Chronic Bronchitis 

Do you have acute or chronic bronchitis? 

 Acute Bronchitis 

The difference between them is acute and temporary. It’s a lower respiratory tract infection that is reversible bronchial inflammation. The cause (95%) is viral. Patients usually recover within one to three weeks. However, the cough can last seven to 10 days and persist. Roughly 25 percent last up to one month. (x

Chronic Bronchitis 

If you have chronic bronchitis, the bronchial airwaves are irreversible, usually if you are a smoker. You experience recurrent bronchitis. However, other studies show that indoor and outdoor pollution can cause the disease. The impairment of the airflow is the chronic aspect of the health concern. (x)

What Is Lung Capacity?

Lung capacity refers to the total amount of air someone’s lungs can hold after taking their deepest possible breath. (x) Patients with pulmonary diseases usually cannot exhale fully, which results in hyperinflation of the lungs. It means your lungs are overinflated and have blocked air sacs because of changes in your lungs’ elasticity — severe breathlessness. (x) These patients have higher total lung capacities. (x)

Pneumonia and Bronchitis

Pneumonia is a lung infection, and its symptoms can sometimes overlap with those of bronchitis. (x) A variety of pathogens — such as fungi, bacteria and viruses — cause it. People suffering from pneumonia have inflamed air sacs filled with fluid or pus in their lungs. It leads to breathing difficulties and sometimes death, though uncommon if left untreated.

What’s the Difference Between Bronchitis and Pneumonia?

While bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways, pneumonia is simply an infection of the lungs.

Can Bronchitis Turn into Pneumonia?

It can turn into pneumonia if left untreated. Infections can travel from the airways to the lungs, causing pneumonia.

How Do You Know When Bronchitis Turns into Pneumonia?

If your illness turns into pneumonia, you may experience fever, sharp chest pain, shortness of breath, and confusion, which is more common in older adults. (x)

What Is Chronic Pneumonia?

Chronic pneumonia, which has a prolonged presence in the body. You can have it for weeks, sometimes months, and it can be infectious or noninfectious. (x)

How Contagious is Acute Bronchitis?

Acute bronchitis is a short-term infection best left alone to run its course. You may have it for two to three weeks, during which you can spread the infection to others via saliva and mucus coughed out into the air and onto surfaces. (x) Coughing into your sleeve and frequently washing your hands are the best ways to keep the illness to yourself.

Diagnosing Bronchitis

During the first few days of infection, symptoms may appear similar to those of the common cold. During an examination, your doctor will listen to your lungs with a stethoscope as you breathe. Your doctor may refer you to one or some of the following tests:

Chest X-rays – A chest X-ray can help your doctor determine whether you have pneumonia or something else. These X-rays are beneficial if you smoke or used to smoke.

Sputum tests – Sputum is mucus coughed out from the lungs. This test can help your doctor determine whether they can treat your illness with antibiotics or antiviral medication.

Pulmonary function test – During this test, your doctor will ask you to blow into a spirometer. It measures how much air your lungs can hold and how fast they can expel it. The test will check for signs of emphysema or asthma. (x)

Symptoms of Bronchitis

The symptoms of acute and chronic bronchitis are often the same:

  • Excess production of white, clear, green or yellowish-gray mucus, sometimes streaked with blood.
  • Chest discomfort
  • Slight fever and chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue and cough
  • Burning sensation in the lungs
  • Chest congestion
  • Wheezing when lying down

With acute bronchitis, you may suffer additional cold symptoms, such as body aches and mild headaches. A persistent cough, which may last as long as three months, characterizes chronic bronchitis.

Causes of Bronchitis

The spread of viruses, primarily one’s responsible for the common cold and flu, often causes bronchitis. That said, bacterial infections and exposure to airborne irritants — fumes, tobacco smoke, vapors, dust, or air pollution — in the lungs can cause it, too. Some of the causes:

  1. Viruses

Bronchitis, most of the time, starts like the common cold or flu. Sometimes a cold or flu digs deeper into the respiratory system, where it often becomes bronchitis. Two of the most dangerous viruses that lead to it are influenza A and B, and other responsible viruses include coronavirus, parainfluenza, rhinovirus, adenovirus and many others.

  1. Bacteria

Medical researchers have identified three bacterial groups responsible for causing bronchitis — Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae and Moraxella catarrhalis. Bronchitis caused by bacteria is quite common in older adults, children, and people who suffer from chronic lung diseases.

What Causes Wheezing in Bronchitis Patients?

Airways in patients suffering from bronchitis become inflamed, leading to the excess production and secretion of phlegm and mucus, which can clog the small airways. Blocked airways cause wheezing.

Can Allergies Cause Chest Congestion?

Exposure to allergens such as air pollution, tobacco smoke, or dust can trigger chronic allergic bronchitis, which causes chest congestion.

Living with Bronchitis

Though symptoms can be uncomfortable, painful, and frustrating, bronchitis rarely needs medical attention. In most cases, your doctor will tell you to ride it out. Here are some tips to help you survive the days to come:

  • Avoid close contact with things that will irritate your lungs — smoke, dust, chemical fumes. Try wearing a mask.
  • If you smoke, try cutting down for a few days.
  • Take hot showers. Breathe in steam from a bucket of hot water.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • If your cough persists, try lying down with your face up in an environment free of airborne irritants. Seek medical help if your cough persists and worsens.

Why Does Bronchitis Make You Tired?

Acute bronchitis can make you feel tired for two reasons. First, a persistent cough can rob you of sleep, making you feel exhausted as the illness progresses. Second, your body needs the energy to fight off infection; feeling tired is normal when your immune system uses energy to go to work, so it’s no cause for alarm.

Bronchitis Symptoms

Treatment for Bronchitis

In most cases, bronchitis will get better without treatment, usually over a couple of weeks.

Your doctor may prescribe you an antibiotic or antiviral medication, depending on what microorganism is causing your bronchitis, or they may prescribe something else entirely if something else is causing it. Outside the realm of prescription medication, try something else:

  1. Plenty of Fluids and Rest

Your doctor will most likely tell you to get plenty of rest and fluids, which is probably the best advice. (x) Keeping your body hydrated is super important, even if you are not sick. (x)

  1. Essential Oils

Some essential oils may ease a cough or cold symptoms by soothing the throat, reducing inflammation and fighting bacteria. Nasal sprays with peppermint, eucalyptus, rosemary, and oregano extracts can improve a sore throat.

  1. Relieving Chest Congestion

Inflammation and mucus buildup in the chest causes congestion and may lead to sleep difficulties, wheezing and sore throat. You can relieve chest congestion by drinking warm fluids mixed with lemon and honey and humidifying the air.

  1. Albuterol for Bronchitis

You can take albuterol to relieve coughing caused by tight airways — it will not work for coughing caused by nasal drainage. (x) It is a temporary solution that can cause you severe adverse effects, such as shortness of breath. (x)

  1. Azithromycin for Bronchitis

Azithromycin may work to treat bacterial bronchitis, though studies have suggested it’s no better than taking vitamin C. (x

  1. Homeopathic Remedies for Bronchitis

Homeopathy is a standard and successful treatment for respiratory illnesses. You need to consult a specialist in this discipline to achieve a successful treatment. Homeopathic remedies include Bryonia, sulfur, antimonium tartaricum and pulsatilla. (x)

  1. Supplements for Bronchitis

If you’re considering supplements or vitamins to treat bronchitis, talk to your physician first. These may help:

How Much of a Dosage Should I take? 

The best advice on dosage is to visit your doctor and consult with them before taking any of these supplements. They usually conduct a complete diagnosis and determine whether you are suffering from a respiratory infection. They then prescribe the supplements to treat the condition.

Consulting with a healthcare professional, particularly one with an excellent knowledge of your medical history, is essential. That way, you both can check for interactions with any medicine you currently take or any adverse effects that might happen based on your health condition or even your family’s medical health history.

Your healthcare provider also advises each supplemental dosage based on various components such as the extent of the health concern, your age, and other lifestyle issues.

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The Bottom Line

Bronchitis is an illness that has plagued the world since time immemorable. The ancient Greeks treated the infection with garlic, turpentine, pepper and cinnamon. There are many natural treatments that you can avail yourself of. Nothing works better than plenty of fluids and rest.   

Inflammation in the bronchial tubes, airways that transport air to and from the lungs, causes bronchitis. It causes cough, shortness of breath, low-grade fever, wheezing and chest congestion. There are two types — acute and chronic. Acute bronchitis is short-lived but infectious, while chronic bronchitis persists but is, primarily, noninfectious.  

Depending on the cause of illness, you can treat it with antibiotics or other home remedies. Supplements or vitamins may also help you treat it.   

Lifestyle changes may also help relieve any form of bronchitis you might experience, such as stop smoking, consider outdoor and indoor pollution, and allergies.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Author: BulkSupplements Staff