Bronchitis is the swelling and irritation in the small air passages in the lungs. In acute bronchitis there is a cough that produces phlegm, and pain behind the breastbone when you breathe deeply or cough.
How does it happen?
Bronchitis is commonly associated with viral infections of the respiratory tract, such as colds and flu. Bacterial infections may also cause acute bronchitis. It may also occur with childhood illnesses, such as measles and whooping cough. Infants, young children and the elderly are most likely to get acute bronchitis. Attacks are most frequent during the winter and when air pollution is high.
What are the symptoms?
There is cough with yellowish or greenish phlegm. Pain occurs behind the breastbone or in the chest on breathing deeply or coughing. Wheezing or breathlessness may be present. Fever with chills along with a headache or sore muscles may occur.
How is it diagnosed?
The doctor will ask about the symptoms and examine the patient’s chest with a stethoscope. Some tests may also be done, such as, sputum analysis (if it is yellowish, greenish or blood-tinged), chest X-ray and some blood tests.
What is the treatment?
Treatment includes taking medicines to relieve the symptoms. Antibiotics are required in bacterial infections. The doctor should be informed about any allergy to antibiotics. Steam inhalation or using a vaporizer helps in recovery. Cough syrups that help liquefy the phlegm may be used. If wheezing is present, bronchodilators may be needed.
How long will the effects last?
In most cases, bronchitis develops suddenly and clears up quickly. The symptoms last from 2 to 4 days. It may take longer to recover in smokers. People having a heart or lung disease, living in an area with air pollution or other health problems may delay recovery.
When should the doctor be consulted?
The doctor must be consulted if the patient doesn't feel better in a couple of days, has breathing trouble, a fever over 100.5 degrees F (38 degrees C) or blood on coughing.
How to prevent acute bronchitis?
Reduce the risk of getting a respiratory infection: