Bronchitis develops when the bronchial tube swells and inflames. The bronchial tubes are the air passages that link the nose and the mouth with the lungs. Some of the most prevalent symptoms of bronchitis include wheezing, cough, and difficulty breathing. People with bronchitis also have difficulty clearing phlegm or heavy mucus from their airways.
Bronchitis can be chronic or acute. The latter often clears up. The former on the other hand often persists and never goes away completely. Avoiding secondhand smoke or not smoking at all can help keep bronchitis from developing. Fortunately, there are plenty of bronchitis treatments available. Bronchitis treatment that will be given will depend on the severity of the condition.
How You Can Get Bronchitis
When a bacteria, virus, or irritant triggers the inflammation of the bronchial tubes, bronchitis occurs. Smoking is considered a key risk factor although nonsmokers can also develop bronchitis.
People can get acute bronchitis through:
- A virus (i.e, cold, or flu virus)
- A bacterial infection
- Exposure to substances that irritate the lungs (i.e., vapors, fumes, air pollution, tobacco smoke, dust, and fumes)
People also have a higher risk of developing the condition if:
- They get a bacteria or virus that causes inflammation
- They have an allergy and asthma
- They smoke
- They inhale secondhand smoke
Chronic bronchitis occurs when there’s repeated irritation as well as damage to the airway tissues and the lungs. The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is smoking. However, not everyone who develops bronchitis smokes.
Other possible causes of bronchitis include:
- Long-term exposure to dust, fumes, and air pollution
- Repeated episodes of acute bronchitis
- Genetic factors
- History of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or respiratory disease
In some cases, pesticide exposure may also increase the risk. People with allergies or asthma also have a higher risk of developing both types of bronchitis.
Your doctor may recommend the following for those with bronchitis:
- Drink fluids
- Over-the-counter medications (OTC) such as ibuprofen
Taking OTC medications can also help relieve coughs and ease any of the accompanying pain. Typically, acute bronchitis goes away on its own, even without treatment.
Symptoms of chronic bronchitis may also improve on its own or resolve itself. However, there is also a possibility that it will come back and worsen. This is especially true if there is exposure to smoke and other triggers.
Other treatment options for bronchitis include:
Coughing is considered useful when removing mucus from the bronchial tubes. Cough medications may also bring much-needed relief especially during night time.
Using a humidifier
Using a humidifier can help improve airflow, relieve wheezing, and loosen mucus.
Bronchodilators can help open the bronchial tubes so mucus can be cleared out.
Mucolytics can help loosen the mucus on the airways. This can also make it easier for the patient to cough up the sputum.
Anti-inflammatory and steroid drugs
Steroid and anti-inflammatory drugs are known to help minimize the inflammation that can cause tissue damage.
In severe cases, someone with bronchitis might need supplemental oxygen to ease their breathing.
Other treatment strategies for bronchitis can include:
- Removal of a lung irritant (can be done by not smoking)
- Improving breathing techniques (can be done through pulmonary rehabilitation)
- Exercising (to strengthen the chest muscles)
Breathing exercises like pursed-lip breathing can also help slow down breathing and make it more effective. For acute bronchitis caused by bacterial infection, doctors will typically prescribe antibiotics. In some instances, taking medications can help prevent the development of a secondary infection.