Bronchitis is usually considered as an inflammation of bronchial tube lining. Bronchial tubes are responsible to carry air to your lungs. Bronchitis generally results in production of thickened mucus while coughing. Bronchitis can either be acute or chronic.
Acute bronchitis is very common due to the common cold, fever and respiratory tract infections. Chronic bronchitis is a serious condition that causes irritation or inflammation of the bronchial tube lining. Acute bronchitis can be cured in few days whereas; chronic bronchitis requires immediate medical attention and takes a longer time to recover completely.
The symptoms usually range from mild to chronic depending on the overall health condition. The symptoms of acute and chronic bronchitis are quite similar. The common symptoms of bronchitis include:
- Excess production of sputum
- Shortness of breath
- Chest discomfort
The common symptom of acute and chronic bronchitis is severe cough that last for a longer time. In case of acute bronchitis, the cough will remain for several weeks whereas; in chronic bronchitis the cough remains for minimum 3 months. Bronchitis can lead to pneumonia if left untreated.
Bronchitis is usually caused by influenza virus. Influenza virus is mainly responsible for common cold and cough. In few rare cases bacteria is also responsible for bronchitis. In both cases, your bronchial tubes swell and produce more mucus. There will be only smaller opening for air to flow that can make it harder for you to breathe.
The following conditions denote that you have higher chances of getting infected with bronchitis:
- In case of a weaker immune system
- Severe cold can also increase the risk of bronchitis
- Excessive smoking
- Heartburn or gastric reflux
- Exposure to harmful chemicals at workplace
When you should consult a doctor?
You must consult your doctor in the following situations:
- When your cough brings up blood
- When excess thick mucus is produced while coughing
- When you are unable to sleep due to cough
- When your cough lasts for more than 3 weeks
- When it is difficult for you to speak
- When you experience unexplained weight loss
- Wheezing or shortness of breath
- High fever
Bronchitis can be diagnosed with the following diagnostic tests:
- Physical examination
- Oxygen levels are examined in your blood
- Lung function test
- Chest X-ray
- Blood tests
- Test for mucus to rule out bacteria
Bronchitis can be prevented with certain precautionary measures like:
- Quit smoking to reduce the risk of bronchitis
- Get flu vaccine shots as bronchitis can also be caused by flu virus
- Get the pneumonia vaccine especially when you are 60or older
- Wash your hands often to avoid getting in contact with the virus
- Use face masks when you have high chances of getting in contact with certain chemicals like paint fumes that can irritation to your lungs.