Initially, the infection affects the nose, sinus as well as throat. Finally, the lungs are infected. The airways may be infected with another bacterial infection.
There is mucus collection and swelling in the bronchial passages. This prevents the smooth movement of the air in the lungs.
Due to this, the patient may have discomfort. Elderly people are likely to get acute bronchitis. The condition also affects infants as well as children who are younger. Bronchitis is common during the winter season.
Causes Of Acute Bronchitis
The main cause of acute bronchitis is a respiratory infection by a virus such as rhinovirus and influenza or bacteria like Chlamydophila pneumonia. Respiratory infections like cold and flu can also lead to acute bronchitis. Infection causes airway irritation. Due to the infection, there is inflammation in the bronchial tube lining. There is infection when the virus attacks the bronchial lining. There is mucus production when the body protects itself against the virus attack.
Acute bronchitis may also occur due to chemical irritants and tobacco smoke. Inhaling secondhand smoke can also damage the airways. Dust, vapors and harmful fumes from the factories can damage the bronchial tubes, leading to bronchitis. Bronchitis can worsen due to air pollution, infections and allergy.
Acute bronchitis affects people who are exposed to dangerous materials and chemicals in professions like coal mining and textile manufacturing. People who suffer from a heart disorder can get acute bronchitis. The bronchitis virus spreads with the coughing of an infected person. Another person who inhales these viruses can get the infection. Infection also spreads by physical contact and touching the hands of an infected person.
For the diagnosis of acute bronchitis, the doctor conducts a physical examination of the patient, considering the patient’s history. The doctor analyses the symptoms and asks some questions about the nature and timing of the symptoms. He or she inquires if the patient has fever, sputum and blood in the cough.
The doctor analyses and checks the airways for any infection signs like running nose, red eardrums and throat. The doctor checks if the patient has wheezing. Cough and wheezing at night is a symptom of bronchial obstruction. The sputum culture test is done for finding presence of a bacterial infection. Sometimes, chest X-ray is done to see if the patient has pneumonia and other lung disorders.
The main symptom of acute bronchitis is narrowing of the bronchial tubes. This leads to difficulty in the air movement. The symptoms show after three to four days of the respiratory infection. Initially, the patient has dry cough. Later on, there is an expectorating cough with a colored sputum, usually yellow or green. The patient has nasal stuffiness, running nose, fatigue, sore throat, body aches, malaise, chill and fever.
Sometimes, there may be blood in the cough. There may be congestion, tightness, burning, pain and discomfort in the chest. This pain worsens on breathing and coughing. The patient may have a shortness of breath. There can be wheezing while breathing, which increases with physical exertion. The symptoms of bronchitis become worse due to cold and damp weather. Some patients may have a cough till four weeks and later.
Duration Of Cough
Patients who have acute bronchitis may have cough for several weeks, sometimes lasting for many months. It takes a long time for the healing of the bronchial tubes. If the cough is persistent and does not resolve, it shows that the patient may have another problem such as asthma and pneumonia.
The main aim of the treatment of acute bronchitis is to reduce the inflammation. The patient must inhale bronchodilators like albuterol. Steroid therapy and topical inhaled steroids decrease the inflammation. For fever, take acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Antibiotics are not useful for the treatment of acute bronchitis that occurs due to viral infection.
The patient recovers within one week if he or she does not have a lung disorder. Antibiotics are given only if the bronchitis is due to a bacterial infection. The patient has a bacterial infection if the cough is yellow, gray or green in color. Take aspirin or Tylenol for fever.
Medicines help in clearing the secretions. For dry cough, take cough suppressant medicines. For cough with mucus, take cough expectorants that expel the mucus. Patients who have wheezing may need asthma medicines. The doctor may advise the use of an inhaler which helps in spraying the medicine in the respiratory passage.
For the home treatment of acute bronchitis, drink fluids, take rest and avoid smoking and alcohol. For a sore throat, suck cough drops and candies. Use humidifier in the bathroom. Inhale steam with eucalyptus oil added to it.
Most people do not have complications due to acute bronchitis. However, some patients may have a dry cough for many months. There may be improper functioning of the lung tissue due to inflammation.
The main complication of acute bronchitis is that the patient may develop pneumonia. The patient is likely to suffer from emphysema and heart failure. Some patients may have pulmonary hypertension. Patients who have asthma can have severe coughing along with wheezing.
Get flu vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine after consulting a doctor. Avoid smoking, air pollution, cold and flu. Wash hands frequently to prevent the spreading of infections. Avoid areas which are cold as well as damp. Use a face mask while working with irritants like dust and chemicals. Face mask helps in filtering out the irritants. Avoid physical contact with people who have respiratory infections.
Call The Doctor If
Call the doctor if there is wheezing along with the cough for two weeks. You may have wheezing and cough at night and while lying down. Consult a doctor if you have GERD, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease in which fluid returns to the esophagus or bronchial tubes.
Consult a doctor if there is blood in the cough and if there is a feeling of sickness and weakness. Also, consult a doctor if there is shortness of breath, breathing problem, severe chest pain, a persisting fever, pneumonia and blood in the cough.