Bronchitis

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of your bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from your lungs.

Bronchitis may be either acute or chronic.
Acute bronchitis usually is normally caused by viruses, typically those that also cause colds and flu.

It can also be caused by bacterial infection and exposure to substances that irritate the lungs, such as tobacco smoke, dust, fumes, vapors and air pollution. Acute bronchitis usually improves within a few days without lasting effects, although you may continue to cough for weeks.

However, if you have repeated bouts of bronchitis, you may have chronic bronchitis, which requires medical attention. Smoking is the most common causes of chronic bronchitis, with other causes including long-term exposure to air pollution, dust and fumes from the environment, and repeated episodes of acute bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is one of the conditions included in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Signs and symptoms for both acute and chronic bronchitis

The main symptom is a cough, which may bring up yellow-grey mucus (phlegm).
Others include
Wheezing
Low grade fever and chills
Chest tightening
Sore throat
Body aches
Breathlessness
Headaches
Blocked nose and sinuses.

Diagnosis and Tests

Your healthcare provider may use the signs and symptoms particularly persistent cough with mucus and whether you have recently suffered from a cold or flu.
• Blood Gases Test
• Chest X Ray
• Spirometry
• Pulmonary function test

Treatments for Bronchitis

Many cases of acute bronchitis may go away without any specific treatment but in severe cases, treatment is required. Treatment options include;
Antibiotics – these are effective for bacterial infections, but not for viral infections. They may also prevent secondary infections

Cough suppressants- although coughing should not be completely suppressed as this is an important way to bring up mucus and remove irritants from the lungs

Bronchodilators – these open the bronchial tubes and clear out mucus

Mucolytics – these thin or loosen mucus in the airways, making it easier to cough up sputum

Anti-inflammatory medicines and glucocorticoid steroids – these are for more persistent symptoms to help decrease chronic inflammation that may cause tissue damage

Oxygen therapy – this helps improve oxygen intake when breathing is difficult

Prevention

Although you cannot always prevent acute bronchitis or chronic bronchitis there are several measures that can be taken to reduce your risk of both conditions:
Avoid smoking
Avoid irritants, such as smoke, dust, fumes and air pollution.
Get vaccinated against pneumonia
Wash your hands often, to limit your exposure to germs and bacteria
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Donkor Abdul-Ghaffar

Donkor Abdul-Ghaffar holds Bachelor of Science degree in Paediatrics from University of Ghana, Legon.

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