What You Need To Know About Bronchitis
Date Created: 11/15/2016
By Christopher Hamann, M.D., ABEM, ACEP
We have all had coughing fits in our life. Some usually happen when something goes down “the wrong pipe,” as they say, or if you have suffered from allergies or the common cold. Then there is bronchitis, where your whole body is consumed by an irritating cough. Here’s what you should know about bronchitis and how it can be treated.
What is bronchitis?
Bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways leading to and throughout the lungs, is called the bronchi, and is usually caused by viruses and bacteria. There are two types of bronchitis that affect people: acute and chronic.
Acute bronchitis usually affects infants, young children and the elderly. It is most often caused by a virus, similar to that which causes cold and flu. Acute bronchitis also can be caused by a bacterial infection or exposure to things that irritate the lungs like air pollution, vapors, tobacco smoke and fumes, to name a few.
Chronic bronchitis is long-term, which is otherwise known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which also include asthma and emphysema. COPD can affect smokers or individuals over the age of 45. COPD develops when there is repeated irritation and damage to the lungs and airway tissue— for instance, long-term exposure to fumes or vapors, or repeated cases of acute bronchitis. Not surprisingly, smoking is the most common cause of chronic bronchitis.
What are the symptoms of bronchitis?
Depending on the type of bronchitis you have, symptoms can last for a short period of time or persist over time. Common symptoms of bronchitis include:
- Coughing – this can include coughing up clear mucus or yellow, light brown or green in nature
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Sore throat
- Low level fever
- Tightening of chest
- Body aches
- Blocked nose
- Blocked sinuses
How do you treat bronchitis?
Usually when you develop some of the symptoms noted above, your doctor will do several things to determine if you have bronchitis. Apart from taking your vitals, your doctor will listen (with a stethoscope) for wheezing in your lungs that typically is associated with bronchitis. Occasionally doctors will order a chest x ray to rule out other causes of your cough. Because bronchitis is inflammation usually from a viral cause, antibiotics are generally ineffective in treatment and therefore rarely prescribed. What will help is plenty of rest, drinking lots of water and avoiding smoke, fumes or other things that could irritate you even more. Your doctor may also prescribe cough syrup or a bronchial inhaler to help alleviate the symptoms you’re having. If you have chronic and/or acute bronchitis, your doctor may also prescribe steroids to reduce inflammation.
If you’re not sure whether you have a cold or bronchitis, or if you feel your cough may be getting severe, please visit your medical provider. If you’re in the Orlando area, come visit GuideWell Emergency Doctors. We are an urgent care facility that offers a high-quality, cost-effective care alternative to meet your unscheduled medical needs. No need to make an appointment – just walk on in!