Do you remember the last time you came down with a cold, and you ended up with a nasty, chesty-cough that seemed to linger long after your sinuses had dried up? There’s a chance you may have had bronchitis.
What is Bronchitis?
Bronchitis occurs when your bronchial tubes, which are the tubes that carry air to and from your lungs, become inflamed. There are two types of bronchitis: acute and chronic.
Acute bronchitis is very common. You’ve probably more often heard it referred to as a chest cold. Acute bronchitis usually gets better in seven to ten days, although sometimes a cough can linger for some weeks.
Chronic bronchitis is a constant irritation or inflammation of the bronchial tube lining and is much more problematic because it could lead to more serious conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Chronic bronchitis can often be caused by smoking.
Symptoms of Bronchitis
Of course, the hallmark symptom of bronchitis is a cough. This cough is usually accompanied by mucus, also called sputum, which can be clear, white, yellowish-gray, or green. On rare occasions, it can be streaked with blood.
Other symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, mild fever and chills, or chest discomfort. Acute bronchitis can often be accompanied by cold symptoms, like a headache or body aches.
The symptoms of chronic bronchitis are the same as acute, however, in order to qualify as chronic, you must have a mucus-producing cough for at least three consecutive months, with recurring bouts that last for at least two years.
Acute bronchitis is usually caused by the same viruses that cause colds and flu, so if you have a weak immune system, or if your immune system has already been compromised by another illness (such as a cold), you are at a greater risk for getting bronchitis.
The most common risk factor for chronic bronchitis, however, is smoking. In fact, according to the CDC, almost half of all smokers develop chronic bronchitis.
Other risk factors for chronic bronchitis include underlying diseases, like asthma or cystic fibrosis, a familial predisposition to the condition, pneumonia, or gastric reflux. All of these causes are significantly less frequent than cigarette smoking.
When You Should Seek Medical Care
You should speak to your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
- A temperature of 100.4 °F or higher
- Cough with bloody mucus
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- Symptoms that last more than 3 weeks
- Repeated episodes of bronchitis
Chronic Bronchitis and COPD
It is very important to see a doctor if you have chronic bronchitis because it could lead to a more dangerous condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This is an inflammatory lung disease that obstructs airflow from the lungs, making it difficult to breathe.
COPD can make you more likely to have respiratory infections like colds and pneumonia, increases your risk for heart disease and lung cancer, and may cause high blood pressure in your lungs’ arteries. It has also been linked with depression, since having difficulty breathing can prevent you from participating in activities you enjoy.
Treatment for Chronic Bronchitis
If you are suffering from chronic bronchitis and are a smoker, the first thing your doctor will recommend to you is to stop smoking. Typically half of the patients with chronic bronchitis will cease coughing after just one month of no-smoking.
There are two types of medications that can be used to treat chronic bronchitis: bronchodilators and steroids.
Bronchodilators help to relax the smooth muscles that surround the bronchi, allowing the inner airways to expand. Steroids help reduce inflammation, which decreases the swelling and secretions in your bronchi. This reduces airway obstruction, allowing you to breathe better. More often than not, a combination of both bronchodilators and Steroids will be used in treatment.
10 Natural Remedies for Acute Bronchitis
While there is no actual cure for acute bronchitis, there are many natural remedies that can make you feel better and help you to get healthy faster.
- Get plenty of rest. Give your body the chance to put as much energy as possible into healing.
- Stay hydrated. This helps to thin out mucus which makes it easier to get rid of. Warm liquids, like ginger tea or honey-lemon water, can be particularly soothing.
- Eat spicy food. Foods like hot mustard or wasabi can help loosen up bronchial secretions. Chili peppers contain capsaicin, which also helps to thin out mucus.
- Try a herbal remedy. Elderberry or Sambucus nigra has been shown to actually inhibit the bronchitis virus at an early stage in replication. African geranium, or Pelargonium sidoides, can help increase your body’s natural healing rate against bronchitis when used as a supplement. There is also evidence that ginger can act as an anti-inflammatory against respiratory infections, and garlic can inhibit the growth of the bronchitis virus. Other remedies to try could include echinacea, bee propolis, and manuka honey.
- Gargle saltwater. Swishing warm salt water in your throat and mouth several times per day can help wash away excess mucus. This could also help prevent future colds from developing.
- Drink lemon water. Lemon is used widely as an expectorant, which means it helps you to get rid of excess mucus.
- Steam helps you to break up mucus so you can expel it more easily. Try standing in a hot shower and breathing deeply through your nose and mouth, or put hot water in a bowl and towel over your head and inhaling the steam. Do not stand over the hot water for more than a minute or two at a time to avoid burning your airways.
- Use Essential Oils. Myrtol, eucalyptus, or orange oil can ease inflammation and breathing difficulties.
- Eat chicken soup. It can help clear mucus and have a mild anti-inflammatory effect as well.
- Take a vitamin D supplement. Studies have shown that a vitamin D supplement can reduce respiratory infections, including bronchitis.
Take Your Time
As with any illness, it is important that you give your body the chance to heal and get better. The kinder you are to your body, the quicker you will be back on your feet. Spend a day or two at home and try as many of these remedies as you like- while they may not cure your bronchitis completely, they will ease your symptoms and help you to get back to normal faster.
Again, if you notice any symptoms that seem out of the norm, or you are showing signs of chronic bronchitis, you should go see your doctor as soon as possible. Chronic bronchitis is a more serious condition that warrants the advice of a medical professional.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.
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