For people who have bronchitis, they have an inflammation of their respiratory tract, particularly focusing on their bronchial tubes. Your bronchial tubes are the part of the respiratory system that brings air to your lungs and allows for air to leave your lungs. People typically experience a cough with bronchitis, and they may find themselves coughing up thick mucus. Bronchitis usually accompanies another illness like a cold, but you can develop one of two types.
Before we get into the two types of bronchitis you can have, we’ll touch on what it is. This will help you get a good understanding of this respiratory condition. In a healthy person, your bronchial tubes are wider, and this allows air to flow freely to and from your lungs. However, inflammation can cause the bronchial tubes to narrow because the inner lining grows thicker and swells up. In turn, this narrows the passageway for the air to flow through.
The irritation of the membranes lining your bronchial tubes prompts them to release a thick mucus to coat the bronchial walls. The only way your body can get rid of this mucus is to repeatedly cough. This is why you cough up the phlegm that can vary in color. Your body is trying to make it easier for you to breathe.
Additionally, many people report that they have a heaviness in their chest that makes it seem like there’s a pressure that stops them from drawing a deep breath. This is the inflammation and mucus combining, and you are struggling to get air in and out of your lungs because you’re forcing it through a narrower passage.
The most common type of bronchitis is acute bronchitis, and this usually starts to appear three to four days after you get over a cold. It typically starts with a very dry and irritating cough, and it’ll slowly change to bringing up mucus each time you cough. A normal bout of acute bronchitis lasts between two and three weeks before it clears up, but your cough can persist for up to a month. If you’re healthy, your lungs will return to normal when the infection goes away.
The other end of the spectrum is chronic bronchitis. People who have chronic bronchitis usually have mucus or a cough for a period of three months, and more than two years in a row. If this happens, your bronchial tubes could be a breeding ground for bacterial infections, and you’ll get repeated flares because the bacteria never leave. It’s a form of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) that makes it difficult to breathe. You’ll need ongoing medications to treat the repeated flares.
Again, the bronchitis causes depend on whether or not you have acute or chronic bronchitis. People who have acute bronchitis typically get it from the same virus that gives you the common cold, or the virus that gives you the flu. Other irritants can also cause an acute onset of bronchitis, and they include things like cigarette smoke, chemicals, household cleaners, fumes, and dust. It’s more common in the winter months when people tend to stay home and shut up in their houses breathing the same air.
The single biggest cause of chronic bronchitis is smoking. The chemicals in cigarettes can very easily irritate your lungs and your bronchial tubes, and this can prompt mucus production. Another cause that is slightly less common is repeated exposure to toxic gasses and dust like you see with grain handlers and miners. Air pollution can make your symptoms even worse if you have chronic bronchitis.
No matter which type of bronchitis you have, smoking can make it more difficult for your body to recover. Every time you take a puff off a cigarette, the chemicals and smoke can damage the microscopic hairs (cilia) that line your airways and brush out any debris or contaminants. The more you smoke, the more damaged these areas will get, and the less they’ll be able to work.
There are several categories of people who are at a potentially higher risk of developing bronchitis, both acute and chronic. If the following sounds like you, and you have issues, they may be the root cause of your bronchitis. The people who are at higher risk include:
For most people, realizing that they have bronchitis can be difficult because they assume that they just have a cold or a respiratory tract infection that just won’t go away. They may delay treatment or try to treat it without getting an actual diagnosis. However, the symptoms typically won’t go away on their own, and they include:
There are several ways that your doctor can diagnose bronchitis. A consultation is usually the first step, and then they move on to other methods to determine if you have bronchitis or some other form of a bacterial infection. They include:
Once your doctor determines that you do have Bronchitis, they can start you on a treatment plan. It does usually go away by itself as long as bacteria aren’t the root cause of it. If it is bacteria, your doctor can prescribe antibiotics to help destroy the bacteria. For wheezing, you may get an inhaler that helps to open up your airways. Other possible treatment options include:
Bronchitis can be miserable, but Medek can help you get the diagnosis and treatment you need. Our user-friendly app allows you to connect to our team of board-certified physicians, and they can consult with you right over the phone.
You input your symptoms, and our physicians can prescribe you the correct antibiotics if you need them. We’ll send them straight to your chosen pharmacy, and you can pick them up whenever it is convenient for you. To get started, all you need do is contact us today!