Just as when you’ve gotten over a cold, you suddenly find your chest feeling sore and you develop a wet cough that makes you spew out sputum. You also start having bouts of wheezing and shortness of breath. Later on in the day, you feel an onset of chills and what appear to be the first signs of an impending fever.
Congratulations. You may just have been the recipient of a brand new bronchitis.
Bronchitis: The Problem and the Cause
Bronchitis is a respiratory ailment that causes an inflammation of the medium-sized airways of the lungs. As the inflammation progresses, it narrows the airways of the lungs, sometimes shutting them off, causing you to cough, wheeze and labor for breath. There are generally two kinds of bronchitis: the acute kind, which lasts for several weeks, and the the chronic kind, which reoccurs frequently for more than two years. Of the two, chronic bronchitis is the more serious one and it should be dealt with regular medical treatment.
Bronchitis can be caused by bacteria although most times, it is viral in nature. In fact, the same viruses that cause you to get a cold are often the same ones that trigger bronchitis. Usually, these kinds of bronchitis are infectious, although there are noninfectious ones as well. These develop after enough exposure to cigarette smoke and other pollutants like household cleaners and smog.
Other conditions can also cause bronchitis, such as GERD (gastroesophaegal reflux disease). GERD is the condition where acids from your stomach consistently back up to your esophagus, or food pipe. Environmental exposure to certain fumes or dusts may also cause what is known as occupational bronchitis. The good news is this kind of bronchitis usually clears up when you stop being exposed to the irritants.
Getting Rid of Bronchitis
Acute bronchitis is usually caused by viruses and as such, they usually go away without medication after a few weeks. In order to hasten the recovery from bronchitis, here are a few tips for you:
- Get plenty of rest. Don’t overexert or tax your body by sleeping very late, getting little sleep, or not sleeping at all. Rest allows your body to recuperate and it also promotes and encourages the production of white blood cells to combat the virus. Resting will also make you feel much better, instead of having to work or do tasks while wracked up in coughing and wheezing.
- Use medications to deal with other symptoms of bronchitis. If you have a high fever or are experiencing muscle aches, taking acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) and ibuprofen (like Advil) can help. For adults, taking aspirin is also allowed. However, don’t give aspirin to young children as this may result to them developing a rare and potentially fatal disoder called Reye’s syndrome.
- Drink plenty of fluids. If you’re suffering from a high fever, the body loses its reserve of fluids faster, causing dehydration. Drinking plenty of fluids pretty much eliminates this danger. Also, when you’re well hydrated, the secretions of your lungs (sputum and phlegm) become that much thinner and hence, easier to expel when you cough.
- Stop smoking or stay away from those who do. Smoking irritates the lungs, and when you have a respiratory condition, the last thing you need is for more irritation to complicate matters. Besides, it is an established fact that smoking is a first degree contributor to serious lung and respiratory conditions.
- Invest in a humidifier for your room. If it gets really cold, your coughing might get worse. A humidifier fixes this. Warm, moist air can help in relieving coughs and in loosening your phlegm or mucus in your lungs’ airways. In order to avoid the growth of bacteria and fungi (and complicate matter any further) though, be sure to regularly clean your humidifier.
- Get away from the source of the irritants. If you have occupational bronchitis, then get away from the fumes or dusts that are the cause of your bronchitis. Request to your boss that you be transferred to another department, one where you don’t have to be exposed to such irritants. Once you are, your bronchitis should go away, too.
- Don’t use cough suppressants. Coughing, while annoying, is actually very helpful when you have bronchitis, as long as it’s the productive kind. “Productive coughing” is what is defined as a cough that is accompanied by sputum or phlegm. Productive cough allows you to clear your airways from dead bacteria, cells, and other stuff that usually comprise phlegm. Cough suppressants suppress you from coughing, keeping you from expelling out those phlegms.
Antibacterial medications are rarely used to treat bronchitis since most bronchitis issues are viral in origin. If you have other complications aside from bronchitis, though, that are bacterial in origin, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to clear them. Bronchitis caused by bacteria are also treated with antibacterial drugs in addition to the tips given above.
The best way to get rid of bronchitis is still to prevent yourself from getting it in the first place. Prevention is the best cure especially if you already have a history of another respiratory problem, such as asthma. Since bronchitis can also be a prelude to a more serious condition like pneumonia, then it is doubly important that you take care not to get it instead of treating it. Here are a few tips to prevent or lessen your chances of getting bronchitis.
- Quit smoking. If you’re a smoker, then quit the habit. Aside from the fact that it is dirty and expensive, smoking slowly kills your lungs, irritates your bronchial tubes, and causes them to produce mucus, contributing to the blocking of your lungs’ airways. Aside from bronchitis, smoking is also a prime contributor to other deadly respiratory diseases, chief of which is lung cancer.
- Get your annual flu shot. Many cases of bronchitis are due to influenza. Get yourself a flu vaccine every year in order to lessen the risk of getting flu and, in turn, getting bronchitis.
- Wash your hands properly and thoroughly. Majority of bronchitis cases are due to viruses, but bacterial infection is still something to think about. Eliminate or minimize bacteria by washing your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap and water or better yet, use hand sanitizers.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Eating well and with nutritious foods help your body become stronger to fight off simple diseases like colds and flu. These diseases affect your respiratory system and increase your chances of getting bronchitis. By eliminating the risk of getting these diseases, you also eliminate the risk of weakening your lungs and making it that much more resistant to contracting bronchitis.
- Stay away from sources of pollutants. Pollutants such as dust or smog can irritate your lungs, making you that much more susceptible to getting respiratory ailments, including bronchitis. Stay away from them and you will be taking the first step to avoiding the condition.
Bronchitis is common, but it doesn’t mean you have to get it. Follow the advices given above and you should be well on your way to getting a better and healthier lung.
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