Home Pulmonology What Are the Symptoms of Bronchitis?

What Are the Symptoms of Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is the inflammation of the bronchial tubes, i.e., the tubes that carry air into and from  the lungs. People with bronchitis experience a nagging cough in which they cough out thickened discoloured mucus.

Bronchitis can either be Chronic or Acute. Acute Bronchitis can be due to viral infections that cause flu or cold  or due to bacterial infections and is quite common. In chronic bronchitis, cough and other respiratory symptoms may last longer or keep recurring.

What are the Types of Bronchitis

Bronchitis can be of two types :

  • Acute Bronchitis

It often develops from a cold or any respiratory infection. This type of Bronchitis is commonly referred to as chest cold, which usually heals within 7-10 days. While there are no noticeable lasting effects, the cough may persist for weeks. Since cold and flu viruses are contagious, Acute Bronchitis is also considered contagious.

  • Chronic Bronchitis

This is a more serious type of Bronchitis in which there is inflammation and constant irritation of the bronchial airways, often caused due to smoking. The symptoms of Bronchitis may last for about 3 months up to 2 years and often require medical attention. It is a serious lung disease that is often categorized as a Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).   

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Bronchitis?

Sometimes it becomes difficult to distinguish between Bronchitis and other breathing problems. Bronchitis often starts with common problems of cold, cough, sore throat, and runny nose. However, one of the notable signs of Bronchitis is a nagging cough that can last for more than a week.

Some of the common signs of both Chronic and Acute Bronchitis include:

  • Congestion in the chest.
  • Cough that brings up discolored, yellow, green, or white mucus.
  • A whistling or wheezing sound while breathing.
  • Feeling shortness of breath.

Symptoms specific to Acute Bronchitis include:

  • Chills and body aches.
  • Stuffy and runny nose.
  • No fever or low fever at times.
  • A feeling of being wiped out.
  • Sore throat.

The symptoms associated with Chronic Bronchitis include:

  • Stubborn cough with clear, white, green, or yellow phlegm that lasts for around 3 months up to 2 years.
  • Discomfort in the chest.

What Causes Bronchitis?

The viruses responsible for common cold and flu are the same that cause Acute Bronchitis. But, sometimes, it might also be caused due to bacteria.

For both the cases, the bronchial tubes swell up, producing more mucus as the body fights the germs. This leads to the contraction of airways, making it difficult to breathe.

Apart from that, the common causes attributed to the development of Bronchitis include:

  • Inhaling toxic gases, dust, or chemical fumes from the air.
  • Active or passive smoking for a prolonged period.

What are the Complications of Bronchitis?

A single episode of Bronchitis is not a concern for most people. However, for some, it may lead to Pneumonia. Repeated spells of Bronchitis may indicate that you are suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

Who is at Risk of Contracting Bronchitis?

Certain factors that raises your risk of getting Bronchitis includes:

  • A person who smokes or stays close to a smoker continuously is at risk of developing Chronic or Acute Bronchitis.
  • If you are exposed to chemicals and lung irritants such as textiles, grain husks or chemical fumes, your risk of developing Bronchitis is higher.
  • People with lower immunity levels such as older adults, young children, and infants are more vulnerable to contracting this disease.
  • Severe heartburn over a prolonged period can irritate your throat, increasing your chances of getting Bronchitis.

How is Bronchitis Diagnosed?

During the initial few days of Bronchitis, it becomes difficult to determine whether you are suffering from common cold and flu or have developed Bronchitis. On your visit to the doctor, they will use a stethoscope to examine your lungs as your breathe.

If the doctor suspects the development of Bronchitis they may advise the following tests:

  • Sputum tests: The mucus that is coughed up from your lungs is called the sputum. It can be tested to figure out the infective organism for the Bronchial infection or any other allergic features .
  • Chest X-ray: This can help determine the reason for your cough or if you have Pneumonia.
  • Pulmonary function test: In this test, you are required to blow into a device called a spirometer, which helps in measuring the volume of air that your lungs can hold and how long they can hold it. This test helps in diagnosing Emphysema and Asthma.

What are the Treatment options for Bronchitis

The basic treatment for Bronchitis is rest and consuming lots of fluids. A spell of Acute Bronchitis will get cured on its own.

Some of the other treatment options include:

Medical Treatment

Since viral infections usually cause Bronchitis, there is no use for  antibiotics. However, if the doctor suspects the infection to be caused by bacteria, then they may prescribe antibiotics. Other medications include :

  • Cough suppressants to help you get a good night’s sleep.
  • Inhalers or other medicines to reduce inflammation and breathing problems in case of Asthma, allergies, or other associated problems.

Therapies

In the case of Chronic Bronchitis, pulmonary rehabilitation might be effective. This is a breathing exercise program in which the respiratory therapist teaches you various breathing exercises to improve your ability to breathe more easily.

Self-treatment

You can self-treat your infection if it is a case of Acute Bronchitis.

  • Drink 8 to 12 glasses of water to thin out the mucus and cough it out.
  • Take OTC medications like paracetamol to ease fever or  pain. But, do not give aspirin to children.
  • You can also take OTC cough medicines like guaifenesin during the day to thin out the mucus. Consult your pediatrician before giving any expectorant or cough medicine to children.
  • Use a humidifier to regulate the moisture content in your bedroom. This will help to clear out the mucus from your bronchial tubes. Clean the humidifier frequently to clear out mold and bacteria.

When to Consult a Doctor?

You need to consult a doctor if your cough:

  • Brings out the mucus that is thick or dark or contains blood.
  • Last for more than 3 weeks.
  • Develops chest pain.
  • Produces a barking or wheezing sound.
  • Creates shortness of breath.
  • Comes with unexplained weight loss.
  • Is accompanied by a high fever of 38 degrees Celsius or more.

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How to Prevent Bronchitis?

Follow these preventive measures to reduce the possibility of getting Bronchitis:

  • Avoid smoking, as cigarette smoking increases the possibility of Chronic Bronchitis.
  • Several cases of Acute Bronchitis occur from Influenza. Consider getting a yearly flu vaccine or vaccines for Pneumonia.
  • Wash your hands frequently to reduce the chances of catching any viral infection. Try to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer whenever possible.
  • Wear a face mask at work or in public places if you have COPD, to protect yourself from fumes and dust.

Wrapping up

If you have been consulting a physician for your cough, convey all the complications you are facing, along with any tests conducted. Prepare a list of queries that you have regarding your problem so that your doctor can advise you on the right course of treatment. Your doctor may diagnose your problem by advising further tests such as chest X-ray, pulmonary function test, and sputum culture.

Request an appointment at Apollo Hospitals.

Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.

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