If you find yourself suffering from coughing spells accompanied by breathlessness and phlegm, you may have bronchitis. Bronchitis is a respiratory disease that causes an inflammation of the bronchial tubes. This narrows the airway and does not allow sufficient oxygen to reach the lungs.
There are two types of bronchitis;
- acute bronchitis that lasts for 1-3 weeks, and
- chronic bronchitis that persists for 3 months to 2 years.
Causes of acute bronchitis
Acute bronchitis is usually a result of viral, lung infections. It can also be caused by bacterial infections and exposure to irritants such as tobacco smoke, dust, vapours and particulate matter in the air.
Causes of chronic bronchitis
Repeated attacks of acute bronchitis can weaken the bronchial passage with time and lead to the development of chronic bronchitis. This condition can also be caused by prolonged exposure to dust, pollution and industrial fumes. This puts coal miners, grain handlers and metal workers at a high risk of suffering from this disease. Smoking cigarettes can also irritate the bronchial tubes and contribute to the development of this condition. Chronic bronchitis worsens when a person is exposed to high levels of sulphur dioxide and other such air pollutants for prolonged time periods.
Some of the symptoms of bronchitis are:
- A persistent cough
- Tightening of the chest
If these symptoms last for over a week or begin to interfere with your regular lifestyle, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Self-medicating with an over the counter cough suppressant is counterproductive in the case of bronchitis as a cough is the only way for phlegm and mucus to be expelled from the body.
Conventional treatment for bronchitis includes
- Getting lots of rest
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Avoiding exposure to smoke and dust
- Steam inhalations
Along with this, your doctor may also prescribe cough medicines and a bronchial inhalator. In cases of chronic bronchitis, oral or inhaled steroids may also be needed. Your doctor may also suggest a flu vaccine as bronchitis make your lungs vulnerable to further infections. If you smoke, your doctor will also urge you to quit as cigarette smoke can aggravate your symptoms.
In cases of severe chronic bronchitis where the bronchial tube’s ability to pass oxygen is compromised, oxygen therapy may be needed. In such cases, you may need to have an oxygen tank on hand to be used continuously or as required.