Dealing with Bronchitis: Symptoms, Causes, Risks & Prevention

December 06, 2018

Bronchitis is caused by inflammation of air passages in the lungs. Find out how to deal with bronchitis. Learn symotoms, causes, risk factors, prevention tips and more…

Bronchitis is inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which carry the air to the lungs. This leads to a build-up of mucus, leading to a cough and shortness of breath.
Bronchitis can be acute or chronic

  • Acute bronchitis typically lasts less than 10 days, but the coughing can continue for several weeks. Acute bronchitis is usually caused by viruses, typically the same viruses that cause colds and flu (influenza).
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  • Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, can last for several weeks and usually comes back. Chronic bronchitis is one of the conditions included in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is cigarette smoking. Air pollution and dust or irritants in the environment or workplace also can contribute to chronic bronchitis.

    Also read about -Nutrition going up in smoke? Here's how cigarettes destroy your vitamins.

Risk factors

Risk factors include:

Symptoms of bronchitis include:

  • You have productive cough. Mucus may be clear, white, yellowish or sometimes
  • streaked with blood.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Easy fatigability
  • Chest discomfort

Consult your doctor immediately if you have

  • High-grade fever
  • Shortness of breath or wheeze
  • Your cough lasts for more than three weeks
  • Blood stained mucus

Your doctor would listen to the auscultatory sounds using a stethoscope. Some of the tests that may be advised include

Following these tips would help in reducing the risk of bronchitis

  • Take an annual flu vaccine
  • Quit smoking
  • Wear a proper mask if you are exposed to irritants at the workplace
  • Wash your hands frequently or use an alcohol-based sanitizer to prevent the risk of catching the flu.

Lifestyle Modification
Lifestyle measures include the same tips that are to be followed to reduce the risk of bronchitis. These include

  • Take an annual flu vaccine
  • Quit smoking. Quitting smoking as early as possible is the key to increase the longevity and the quality of life of a patient with chronic bronchitis.
  • If you find difficulty in quitting smoking, seek medical attention. Through behavioural therapy and medications, it is not difficult to quit smoking.
  • Use respiratory protective equipment like face masks if you work in an environment of smoke, dust, fumes etc.
  • Wash your hands frequently or use an alcohol-based sanitizer to prevent the risk of catching the flu.

Most cases of acute bronchitis usually subside in a few days without any specific medication.

  • Your doctor may advise an antibiotic if a bacterial infection is suspected.
  • If your cough keeps you from sleeping, a cough suppressant may be advised.

In patients with chronic bronchitis, medications are advised to reduce the severity of cough and improve the quality of life. Some of the medications include

  • Inhaled bronchodilators like beta agonists (salbutamol, formoterol etc) & anticholinergics like Ipratropium bromide are advised. These help in opening the narrowed airways.
  • Your doctor may advise inhaled Corticosteroids(ICS) like budesonide, beclomethasone etc in addition to bronchodilators.
  • Oral glucocorticoids are advised if inhalational corticosteroids are not sufficient.
  • Antibiotics are advised during exacerbations to treat infections.
  • Mucolytic like N-Acetyl cysteine is advised in some patients.

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Mild cases of acute bronchitis usually do not lead to any serious complications. Repeated bouts of bronchitis may indicate the presence of Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Article by Dr. Anchal Pandey, D.N.B (Family Medicine)
Consultant Physician, CallHealth

Have a question? Consult Dr. Anchal Pandey online.

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