In bronchitis, the air passages, which carry the air to and from your lungs become inflamed or swelled. People with bronchitis breathe less air and oxygen into their lungs. Depending on the duration of the illness, bronchitis is differentiated into acute and chronic.
The former bronchitis condition is often caused by bacteria or viruses which may last for several days or weeks. While the later bronchitis condition is a type of obstructive lung disease characterized by chronically poor airflow that can last for a longer-term. Chronic bronchitis worsens over time, and the symptoms of it include coughing, shortness of breath, and sputum production.
Signs and symptoms of bronchitis:
The most common symptom of bronchitis is a hacking cough. But, there are other bronchitis symptoms that are similar to those of other infections like cold or sinusitis, and may include the following:
- Sore throat
- Runny or blocked nose
- Aches and pains
If your cough lasts for several months after other symptoms have gone, then the condition may be chronic bronchitis that is often known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This condition is due to persistent smoking and prolonged exposure to polluted air. Moreover, continual coughing makes your chest and stomach muscles sore. People with chronic bronchitis may also experience symptoms including:
- Shortness of breath
- Frequent chest infections
If your bronchitis symptom like cough refuses to go away, it could be a sign of another illness like asthma or pneumonia. At this point of time, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Is bronchitis contagious?
The cause of bronchitis verifies its contagiousness. It has been stated in studies that bronchitis caused by viral or bacterial infections is contagious. The acute bronchitis is a respiratory tract infection (in 90% of the cases), caused by a viral infection. But, acute bronchitis due to bacterial infection is rare. Hence, acute bronchitis is contagious if the symptoms are present as long. In certain cases, people with preexisting heart or lung disease, an episode of acute bronchitis may be caused by less virulent strains of infectious agents. This condition may be non-contagious because it is tricky to differentiate virulent strains from less virulent strains based on symptoms alone.
In cases of chronic bronchitis, it is different from the acute one. Chronic bronchitis develops due to continuous irritation and inflammation of air passages over a period due to smoking and prolonged exposure to polluted air. This condition is non-contagious unless there is a superimposed acute exacerbation of chronic bronchitis.
Diagnosing and treatment of bronchitis:
Initially, it will be difficult to distinguish the bronchitis symptoms from those of an ordinary cold. But, physical exam like chest X-ray and tests including sputum and pulmonary function tests may clear the situation. In most cases, acute bronchitis condition resolves without medical treatment within two weeks. Under some circumstances, the doctor may prescribe medications including antibioticsin cases of bronchitis caused due to bacterial infections, cough medicines and inhalers to reduce inflammation.
Also Read: Common cold: Treat it at home
In order to help you feel better, your doctor may suggest you to follow some self-care measures:
- Avoid lung irritants- Don’t smoke and try to wear a mask when the air is polluted, or you’re exposed to paint or household cleaners with strong fumes.
- Use a humidifier- To get relieved from bronchitis symptoms, use a humidifier, as it helps you in loosening mucus in your airways. But make sure always to clean your humidifier as per the manufacturer’s recommendations to avoid the growth of bacteria in the water container.
Conclusion: Some people, particularly smokers, cough all the time without realizing that they have a long-term condition known as chronic bronchitis. So seek emergency medical care if you cough most days, for at least three months and try to quit smoking as early as possible.