Bronchitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the bronchial tubes that carry air from your mouth and nose to your lungs. Inflammation can make it more difficult for air to pass, leading to shortness of breath, pain in your chest, and coughing with lots of mucus. Bronchitis often feels like a severe cold and is characterized by a heavy cough. Left untreated, bronchitis can lead to a buildup of fluid and mucus in the lungs. This can result in pneumonia and other serious complications. People with the condition may try both at-home and doctor-guided treatments for bronchitis.
Symptoms of Bronchitis
Symptoms of bronchitis include wheezing, a tight feeling in your chest, and shortness of breath. Often, bronchitis occurs after a nasty cold, with a phlegmy, hacking cough. You may experience a sore throat, fever, and body aches, similar to cold and flu symptoms. Some people also experience vomiting or diarrhea as a result of the excess mucus draining into their stomach or passing through their gut. The mucus produced from your cough can indicate the secondary illness that may be causing your bronchitis. Clear mucus, or a slimy film, means the liquid is coming out of the lungs. Mucus that is yellow or green indicates a bacterial infection.
Lifestyle Causes of Bronchitis
Certain lifestyle choices can lead to recurring bronchitis. Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for bronchitis, as cigarette smoke irritates the bronchial tubes and encourages mucus build-up in the lungs. In fact, bronchitis coughs are sometimes referred to as “smokers coughs.” Researchers found that smokers may reduce their risk of developing symptoms with physical activity and increase their survival by quitting smoking. Your job may also cause bronchitis; regular contact with dust, chemical fumes, or vapors, increases your risk. This includes jobs in coal mining, grain handling, livestock farming, and textile manufacturing.
Bronchitis from Health Complications
Rhinovirus, or the common cold, can lead to bronchitis, as can influenza strains A and B. If you have asthma or allergies, persistent inflammation of your bronchial tubes may increase your chances of developing bronchitis. When your body tries to fight off illnesses, the bronchial tubes swell and create more mucus. People with weaker immune systems, such as older people, infants and toddlers, and those with conditions like HIV or other autoimmune disorders, also have a higher chance of developing bronchitis. Women tend to contract bronchitis more often than men.
Chronic bronchitis refers to a condition of recurring bronchitis leading to decreased lung function. Repeated bouts of bronchitis quickly affect your lung function, the condition of bronchial tubes, and your ability to breathe easily and deeply. Long-term bronchitis causes constantly inflamed and easily irritated bronchial tubes. Bacterial infections and viruses can aggravate this condition, resulting in more severe cases of bronchitis. Long-term coughing with expectoration of thick mucus is a symptom of chronic bronchitis. People with chronic bronchitis are at a high risk for pneumonia.
Acute bronchitis is the more common variety. It comes on as a result of a cold or flu virus, or a bacterial infection. With treatment and care of your lungs and breathing, this condition typically goes away after the illness passes. Acute bronchitis can become chronic if you are in a high-risk category for developing bronchitis, or if your infection is left untreated. The mucus from acute bronchitis may be clear or yellowish-green. Coughing and wheezing are the same for both acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis. If you have repeated bouts of bronchitis following a cold or the flu, consult with your physician about how to prevent chronic bronchitis.
Bronchodilators to Treat Bronchitis
Certain kinds of medication help with the inflammation of bronchial tubes and to relax the chest and airways. Bronchodilators may be used to widen the air passages by relaxing the bronchial muscles. Such treatments can be prescribed to people with asthma, COPD, allergic reactions, and other conditions that lead to breathing problems. More severe cases of bronchitis involving bronchospasms are treated with these drugs. Side effects can include headaches, nausea, upset stomach, and flu-like symptoms.
Medicines to Treat Bronchitis
Over-the-counter painkillers are sometimes used to relieve pain and fever associated with bronchitis. Certain over-the-counter expectorants can loosen up mucus in the lungs and make coughing more productive. When taking these, check with your doctor to make sure that they will help your condition. Cold prevention medication might not help treat bronchitis itself, but Vitamin C and other cold medicines can speed recovery from colds and the flu, thus speeding the relief from acute bronchitis.
Foods to Prevent Bronchitis
Incorporating more foods rich in antioxidants can help reduce the inflammation in your bronchial tubes. Plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as foods that have anti-inflammatory properties, can lessen the symptoms of bronchitis. Foods that don’t cause mucus formation, especially if you have certain food allergies or sensitivities, can also reduce bronchitis severity. Most conventional dairy, fried foods, and foods high in sugar contribute to mucus formation. Pro-biotic foods help replenish healthy bacteria in the gut and boost the immune system. If you’ve been prescribed antibiotics for bronchitis, probiotics are especially important. These foods include kefir, cultured and fermented vegetables (like sauerkraut and kimchi), kombucha, coconut kefir, and cultured yogurt.
Pursed Lips Breathing
Chronic bronchitis causes difficulty breathing due to restricted airflow in the bronchial tubes. A breathing technique called “pursed lip breathing” may be useful to increase airflow from the bronchial tubes. This method slows down the breath, keeping airways open longer to allow the lungs to get rid of stale and trapped air and fully replace it with fresh, oxygen-rich air. Pursed lip breathing can also increase the amount of time you can exercise or perform activities that people with chronic bronchitis would normally find difficult. To try pursed-lip breathing, breathe in through your nose for about 2 seconds and pucker your lips like you’re getting ready to blow out a candle. Then breathe out very slowly through pursed-lips, 2 to 3 times as long as your breathed in (about 4 seconds).
Supplements to Treat Bronchitis
Certain vitamins and minerals may reduce your risk of developing bronchitis, by boosting your immune system to prevent colds and the flu or by inhibiting the formation of mucus. N-acetylcysteine, an amino acid, can decrease the severity and frequency of coughing attacks and improve overall lung function. Echinacea has antiviral properties that can help you fight off the flu or colds, as does vitamin C. Astragalus root is a powerful antioxidant and immune system support. As with any supplement regimen, check with your physician before adding these to your diet.