Acute bronchitis usually heals by itself after about two weeks, otherwise known as self-limiting. You may still suffer from a cough though, and some lingering fatigue. The road to recovery is about one single principle: build your immunity back up This can be done through the following measures:
- Drink sufficient water to hydrate the cells; aim for an average of 2 litres per day;
- Get enough sleep and try to sleep at the same time each night;
- Do not smoke;
- Eat food rich in many vitamins and minerals;
- Minimize irritation of the lungs; do not expose them to smoke or detergents;
- Steaming may loosen the residual mucus in the lungs and alleviate the complaints.
When breathing, the air enters into the lungs through the larynx or "wind pipe". In the lungs are small tubes that branch out and those are the bronchi. They extend from the wind pipe to the pulmonary alveoli.
The function of the alveoli, small collections of grape-like structures, is to ensure that the oxygen from the air is absorbed in the body as waste products like carbon dioxide are removed through exhalation. The inside of the bronchi is lined with mucous membrane and if infected, the mucous membrane starts to produce more respiratory secretions in an attempt to reduce inflammation and trap pathogens.
Bronchitis may have several causes as the braochi of the respiratory tract become infected. The main reasons are:
- Acute bronchitis as aftermath of a recent viral infection, such as a neglected flu or heavy cold. These infections tend to disappear after a while, a trait referred to as self-limiting.
- A bacterial infection such as tonsillitis may sometimes leads to a bout of acute bronchitis as well.
But most cases of chronic bronchitis start with breathing in of harmful vapours or particulate matter, originating from factory work or even car exhaust.
The main cause of COPD is smoking.
Both acute and chronic bronchitis are recognizable through several symptoms:
- a persistent cough which may produce yellow or green sputum
- rattling breathing (manifest when the air flows past the accumulated mucus)
- chest pain
- sometimes anxiety
- wheezing on auscultation
- often fever
- difficulty breathing following exertion
Chronic bronchitis can also lead to changes in weight. Clinically speaking, the trouble with bronchitis is that many of its symptoms overlap with other acute respiratory infections or conditions such as pneumonia or asthma. Your primary care provider will need to examine you to better determine the cause.
A long-lasting acute bronchitis may become chronic if it persists for more than a few weeks. In those cases, the bronchi are almost constantly infected or irritated. The lung function gradually deteriorates and, in worst case scenarios, you may begin to develop the other form of COPD known as emphysema sets which causes damages to the pulmonary alveoli. Emphysema is characterized by other symptoms including blue/gray fingernails and feeling less alert.
The main cause of chronic bronchitis is smoking as the mucous membrane become more productive than normal, leading to feelings of anxiety and extensive coughing as the phlegm accumulates.
- coughing fits, especially in the morning, with temperature changes or with physical exertion
- coughing up tough, but little mucus
There are a few differences between acute and chronic bronchitis.
First, acute bronchitis will be gone sooner with 50% saying goodbye to their cough within three weeks. With chronic bronchitis, the damage may become permanent as the sensitive lung tissue becomes damaged and the body replaces it with scar tissue to mitigate the assault. Sometimes you may notice an improvement, but the cough always sticks around.
The second difference is the cause. With acute bronchitis, the infection of the bronchi develops after a cold or the flu, while chronic bronchitis may be caused by environmental factors such as exposure to particulate matter,, but is caused by smoking in over 90% of cases.
It is unlikely that acute bronchitis due to pathogens such as viruses or bacteria leads to the lasting damage that characterizes chronic bronchitis. Exposure to smoke is the main factor as the toxins in cigarettes irritate the lining of the lungs, and eventually cause deterioration.
Yes and no as it depends on the cause of the bronchitis. If the bronchitis is caused by air pollution, inhaled smoke or an allergy, it is not contagious; the bronchi were not compromised by pathogens.
With bronchitis caused by a viral or bacterial infection, there is a chance of passing it on to others, through coughing.
Someone with a healthy immune system may not feel any discomfort nor become infected. However, people with weakened resistance may become infected as their body struggles to manage a battle with the pathogen and control the inflammation all at once.
Chronic bronchitis or COPD is a serious progressive and degenerative disease which requires medical supervision. Consult a doctor, especially if you are experiencing chest pain, if breathing or coughing is painful or if you cough up blood or rust-coloured mucus. During your consultation, you can discuss a natural treatment if you wish to augment treatment of your symptoms as the extra mucus is often the main complaint.
A physiotherapist can teach you a breathing technique to get rid of superfluous mucus. This technique is called Forced Expiration Technique (F.E.T.). In a number of cases, tapping is necessary to help dislodge the mucus adhering to the walls of the respiratory tract meaning the mucus can be expectorated more easily.
A doctor can assess if recovery necessitates antibiotic treatment when it is determined to be a bacterial cause. In case of anxiety, your doctor may prescribe bronchodilators.
The most important tips with bronchitis are:
- Quit smoking first and foremost
- A humid living environment may worsen the ailment.
- Cool and humid environments may impair immunological resistance.
- Wear warm clothing.
- Go outside and inhale fresh air regularly.
- Avoid polluted areas.
- Pay attention to your posture, especially if you work sitting down. Being huddled impedes breathing and impairs the lungs ability to expand. Sit up straight, shoulders back.
- Consult your doctor to find out if a sauna may be beneficial. A steam bath can also alleviate symptoms.
Children younger than three, just like the elderly (65+) have a greater chance of getting bronchitis in what is referred to a bimodal distribution of incidence. Toddlers have yet to develop the breadth of antibodies that older children have, and the immune system begins function less effectively with age. Infants are sometimes hospitalized, but this seldom happens after the age of one.
If your child suffers from anxiety associated with acute bronchitis, support his back with pillows to allow him to sit up straight in bed as you sit with them, perhaps reading a chapter of their favourite book.
If your child suffers from severe anxiety or if the skin around the lips turns blue, notify a doctor immediately.
Bronchitis may be accompanied by fever. Your immunity is lowered by the battle raging within the infected bronchi which diverts resources, making you more susceptible to viruses, bacteria and infections.
Fever by itself – apart from being annoying – is not dangerous. Make sure that you drink enough water. If you suffer from a persistent fever accompanied with coughing, you should consult a doctor. You may have pneumonia.
In both asthma and bronchitis, the bronchi have the potential to become inflamed, however, there are differences. To note, the differences are more clinically relevant when asthma is compared to the chronic form as opposed to the acute form.
- Those suffering from asthma tend to have family members affected as well while bronchitis does not have a family history component as it can be caused by infection (acute) or long-term damage (chronic).
- Those suffering from asthma tend to be symptomatic throughout childhood while acute bronchitis will last a few weeks and they will be asymptomatic once more.
- Chronic bronchitis is associated with smoking while asthma does not have a smoking component, albeit asthma attacks can be caused by smoke.
- Productive coughs are far less common with asthma than bronchitis
- Asthmatic episodes can be improved or normalized through the use of bronchodilators, while bronchitis does not normalize with their use.
- Adopt a light, wholesome diet, full of vitamins and minerals, preferably organic.
- Avoid heavy foods with high levels of trans- or saturated-fat.
- Be sure to take in foods rich in pro-vitamin A, such as fruit, dark green leafy vegetables, carrots and other orange vegetables.
- Vitamin C is also important (citrus fruit, kiwis, vegetables)
- Salads containing horseradish, watercress or garden cress.
- Herbal tea with goldenrod, juniper, birch leaf, parsley, stinging nettles, rose hips, sage and thyme
- Consume milk products in moderation, because they may exacerbate mucus accumulation in those with asthma. A trial period of dairy avoidance (4-6 weeks) can determine whether this is beneficial in your case.
- Vitamin D3 supports immune function with some research indicating it may enhance the effectiveness of corticosteroid treatment.
People with COPD may get very sick because of a viral infection of the respiratory tract, such as the flu. Due to an infection, the pre-existing condition of the respiratory tract may get worse. Self-medication is not suitable for (chronic) bronchitis or emphysema. Consult your primary care provider.