Bronchitis is an infection of the main airways of the lungs, also known as bronchi, which causes them to become inflamed and irritated. There are two different types of the condition, known as acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis.
You may have seen our in-depth guide to the medical conditions which affect older people. Today’s article focuses on Bronchitis, as we look at the symptoms, treatments and possible causes of both variations.
What is Bronchitis?
Bronchitis is a respiratory condition which causes an infection to the lung’s airways. The NHS define the condition as being:
An infection of the main airways of the lungs (bronchi), causing them to become irritated and inflamed.
The bronchi branch off either side of the windpipe and lead on to smaller and smaller airways inside your lungs. The walls of the bronchi produce mucus to trap dust and other particles that could otherwise cause irritation.
In most cases, bronchitis develops when an infection inflames and irritates the bronchi, which leads to more mucus being produced than normal. Your body will then try to move this mucus through coughing.
As mentioned in the introduction, there are two types of bronchitis:
- Acute bronchitis – This is a temporary inflammation of your airways which will cause the production of mucus and a cough. This form of the condition commonly lasts around three weeks and can affect people of all ages. This type of bronchitis is common during the winter and can develop following a common cold or flu.
- Chronic bronchitis – This is a daily productive cough which will last for three months of the year and for at least two years in a row. This type of bronchitis is a member of the ‘chronic obstructive pulmonary disease‘ category.
Bronchitis is commonly caused by a virus or by bacteria. In most cases the condition has been triggered by the same viruses that cause the common flu or cold bug, and it can be spread in the same way.
When you cough or sneeze the virus will come out of your nose and mouth in droplets, which can survive on a surface for around 24 hours. Should anybody come into contact with these surfaces then they could be at risk of infection.
Other causes of bronchitis come from being in contact with harmful and irritant substances such as smog and tobacco smoke. Smoking is the main cause of chronic bronchitis, which can then also trigger another smoking-related condition known at Emphysema.
Other occupational materials which can put you at risk of the condition include:
- Strong acids.
- Grain dust.
The main symptom of acute bronchitis is a ‘hacking’ cough, which may also bring up clear, yellow, grey or greenish mucus. There are also other symptoms that you need to be looking out for, most of which are similar to the common cold:
- Sore throat.
- Runny and blocked nose.
- Aches and pains.
Your chest and stomach muscles may also begin to hurt you from the on-going coughing. If you have Chronic Bronchitis you may also suffer from a shortness of breath due to your inflamed airways. Your cough may last several weeks after all of the other symptoms have gone.
If any of the following criteria applies to you, you should see your doctor about your symptoms:
- Your cough lasts longer than three weeks.
- Your cough include mucus streaked with blood.
- You have a constant fever of 38C or higher for more than three days.
- You have an underlying heart or lung condition.
- You begin breathing more rapidly.
- You begin to suffer from drowsiness or confusion.
- You’ve had repeated episodes of bronchitis.
Your doctor may need to rule out other lung infections which have similar symptoms. If your doctor believes that you may have pneumonia, you may be send for a chest X-ray.
With acute bronchitis, most cases will clear up by themselves within a few weeks without the need for treatment. Instead you should simply drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest to help control and ease the pain of your symptoms.
Drinking plenty of fluids will help to prevent dehydration, whilst also thinning-out the mucus in your lungs. You should also treat any headaches, fever or aches with paracetamol or ibuprofen. Only take the latter if you don’t have asthma.
There is no cure for chronic bronchitis, however there are plenty of lifestyle changes that you can make to help ease your symptoms. The most important thing to do once you are diagnosed with Chronic Bronchitis is to quit smoking! The smoke and harmful chemicals in cigarettes will make bronchitis worse and can make it last much, much longer.
Suggested changes include switching to a healthy diet, taking part in moderate exercise and to avoid smoky environments. A healthy lifestyle and body weight reduces the pressure on your lungs and makes it easier to breath.
Sticking to a healthy diet will also lower the risk of a lung infection.
One of the main ways to help reduce the risk of bronchitis is to quit smoking and to limit your time spent around those who are. The chemicals in tobacco smoke are the main cause of chronic bronchitis, which can also lead to emphysema.
Another way of preventing this condition is to avoid other occupational materials that can damage your lungs. Examples include:
- Grain dust.
If you work within an environment which contains materials such as this you should make sure you take the right safety precautions. You should wear dust masks when needed and take short breaks outside the affected buildings.
The final way of reducing the risk of the condition is to be hygienic. As we already know, bronchitis is caused by the same viruses that trigger the common cold. Be aware of those around you, if you notice somebody has cold-like symptoms you should avoid physical interactions with them.
Keep your hands clean and always clean a work surface before you use it.
A Risk of Pneumonia
Around one in 20 cases of bronchitis will lead to pneumonia. This is when the tissue in one or both of your lungs begin to swell, due to a bacterial infection. Those most at risk of developing pneumonia are:
- The elderly.
- Those with other conditions such as heart, liver or kidney disease.
- Those with weakened immune systems.
Mild cases of this condition can usually be treated at home, with antibiotics. In more severe cases you may need to be taken into hospital for treatment.
Chronic Bronchitis is a condition which qualifies you for VAT Exemption when you order a personal alarm system from Lifeline24. HMRC state that a product which has been “designed or adapted for a disability” qualifies for VAT exemption.
For a person to qualify they must meet certain criteria set by HMRC. These criteria state that the customer must have a long-term illness, a terminal illness or a disability to qualify.
Staying safe at home
A personal alarm can help protect people if they suffer from medical conditions such as asthma. If one of our alarm users feels unwell, or suffers a fall, he or she can press their pendant button and help will be arranged immediately.
For more information on purchasing one of our life-saving personal alarms, please speak to one of our friendly advisors on 0800 999 0400. Alternatively, complete our contact us form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.