Bronchitis

Bronchitis occurs when there is an inflammation of the windpipe and airways inside the lungs. These air passages get infected or irritated and the mucus lining gets swollen. In response to the swelling of the mucus lining, there may be a leakage of fluid that creates the persistent bronchial cough. In this way, the entire lungs and respiratory system can get affected.

Bronchitis can be severely uncomfortable and can affect people of all ages. When bronchitis affects children or infants, the symptoms are very similar to those experienced in asthma, and extra care has to be taken when diagnosing and treating the condition. Bronchitis can be acute or chronic in nature. Chronic bronchitis tends to be a more serious medical condition and may require long-term medical treatment. Acute bronchitis or upper respiratory tract infection, as it is also known, is often a result of a viral or bacterial infection with symptoms that are less severe than those found in chronic bronchitis cases. Chronic bronchitis if not properly treated could develop into asthma, emphysema, pneumonia or even heart failure.

Symptoms of Bronchitis

Whether chronic or acute in nature, the symptoms of bronchitis include:

  • Chest pain
  • Tiredness
  • Persistent cough that may produce mucus
  • The phlegm that may be sticky and semi-fluid. This will be expelled when coughing.
  • Low-grade fever
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • A lingering dry cough even after the infection clears up
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nasal congestion
  • Hoarse throat

In cases of chronic bronchitis there may be other symptoms such as the swelling of the feet and ankles, blue lips caused by lack of oxygen in the body, and recurring cold and fevers.

If you suspect that you may have bronchitis visit your doctor at the earliest. A complete physical exam will be conducted to determine the extent of the infection. You may also be required to have a chest x-ray, a lung function test, and a pulse oximetry test to check the levels of oxygen in the blood. Sputum samples can be checked for signs of an infection as well.

Call your doctor if you suffer from any of the following symptoms, as they can signify a medical emergency:

  • You cough almost constantly or a cough that returns frequently
  • There is blood when you cough
  • You have a high fever with bouts of shivering and the chills
  • You have a low-grade fever that lasts for more than 3 days
  • The mucus you spit up is greenish in color or has an offensive smell
  • You have chest pain
  • You suffer from heart or lung disease

Causes of Bronchitis

Acute bronchitis is often caused by a viral infection or as a result of a severe cold or fever. Depending on the extent to which the infection has spread, the bronchitis can then be further aggravated by the weather (if itВ’s cold or damp) or due to exposure to allergens such as pollution and smoke.

If attacks of acute bronchitis keep recurring the condition may progress to chronic bronchitis. One reason for constant flare-ups is a faulty diet. Foods such as over-processed snacks and items made from refined flour and white sugar can lead to the accumulation of toxins in the system. These toxins trigger a reaction in the respiratory system and can lead to another bronchial infection. Pollution, poor working condition, smoking and changes in weather all contribute to lowering the bodyВ’s resistance against infections as well.

Bronchitis can also be caused due to hereditary factors. Some people are more predisposed than others to infections and have low immunity. Viral and bacterial infections can lead to bronchitis and require different types of treatment accordingly. Much like asthma, bronchitis can also be brought on by various allergies. When the histamine level increases, the bronchioles or air passages in the lungs produce extra mucus and a bronchial attack is imminent. Young children or those suffering from other ailments and diseases are susceptible to bronchitis as well.

Remedies for Bronchitis

Acute bronchitis unless caused by

a bacterial infection is rarely treated with antibiotics. Most people prefer to opt for natural cures for bronchitis especially when the affected individual is a child or aged person. Acute bronchitis also tends to clear up in a matter of two to three weeks and home remedies for bronchitis can help to relieve the cough and other symptoms. Bronchitis treatments at home include:

  • Mix half a teaspoon of ginger with half teaspoon each of pepper and cloves. This combination can be blended with a little honey to make it more palatable or had as a tea infusion. There are compounds in ginger, pepper and cloves that help reduce fever and improve the immunity of the person suffering from bronchitis.
  • Add half a teaspoon of turmeric to a glass of milk and drink this thrice a day. This natural remedy for bronchitis in children is more effective when taken on an empty stomach.
  • Infuse spinach leaves in water and add a pinch of honey and ammonium chloride. Drink this as a natural expectorant to loosen phlegm and reduce chest pain.
  • Powder the kernels of almonds and mix this powder in a glass of orange juice. Drink this every night before sleeping.
  • Use the powder of dry chicory root mixed in honey. You can get chicory root powder in most herbal or alternative medical stores. When taken thrice daily, this is one of the most effective chronic bronchitis home remedies.
  • If you do suffer from shortness of breath or tightness in the chest, rubbing turpentine over the chest can offer some much needed relief.
  • Warm salt water gargles can also help to loosen the phlegm and reduce constriction that you may feel in your chest.
  • The best way to treat bronchitis is by getting adequate rest. Doctors may prescribe an over-the-counter cough syrup to reduce the mucus build up in your lungs. Cough drops can also reduce a sore throat but wonВ’t really stop the cough. In cases of chronic bronchitis or if you already suffer from a heart or lung disease, more medical attention and treatment will be necessary. Speak to your doctor immediately to prevent further medical complications.

Diet for Bronchitis

During a bronchitis attack have a hot bath with Epsom salts every night. Remain immersed in this water for at least 20 minutes. This should offer some relief from the congestion and coughing that often gets worse during the night.

The alternate placement of hot and cold towels over the chest is believe to help treat both acute and chronic bronchitis. Apply hot towels thrice and end with a cold towel. This can be repeated several times a day to loosen the phlegm and reduce chest pain.

If you suffer from chronic bronchitis you may benefit from practicing yoga regularly. Special emphasis should be given to yogic breathing exercises to strengthen the lungs and boost immunity.

Avoid smoking, get adequate rest, keep hydrated and use an inhaler to clear your airways if required. Speak to your doctor for a prescription for one if you suffer from recurring chest infections.

Suggestions for Bronchitis

During a bronchitis attack have a hot bath with Epsom salts every night. Remain immersed in this water for at least 20 minutes. This should offer some relief from the congestion and coughing that often gets worse during the night.

The alternate placement of hot and cold towels over the chest is believe to help treat both acute and chronic bronchitis. Apply hot towels thrice and end with a cold towel. This can be repeated several times a day to loosen the phlegm and reduce chest pain.

If you suffer from chronic bronchitis you may benefit from practicing yoga regularly. Special emphasis should be given to yogic breathing exercises to strengthen the lungs and boost immunity.

Avoid smoking, get adequate rest, keep hydrated and use an inhaler to clear your airways if required. Speak to your doctor for a prescription for one if you suffer from recurring chest infections.

References

  1. Bruce Barrett, Chapter 31 - Productive Cough (Acute Bronchitis), In: Robert E. Rakel, MD, Editor(s), Essential Family Medicine (Third Edition), W.B. Saunders, Philadelphia, 2006, Pages 287-292, ISBN 9781416023777, 10.1016/B978-1-4160-2377-7.50034-3.
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