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Bronchitis Information
Written By : M. Lieberman 
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Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchi, the large airways that branch off from the trachea. It is usually caused by an infection, but sometimes it is caused by an irritation from a gas or particle. In bronchitis, areas of the bronchial wall become inflamed and swollen and the production of mucus increases. As a result, the air passageway becomes narrowed and bacteria and viruses are usually present.

Most individuals who experience some type of respiratory condition are usually diagnosed with bronchitis. Bronchitis is one of the most common of all respiratory illnesses and it can affect anyone, as age does not matter. Bronchitis does tend to have a higher incidence in people who smoke, people with some type of respiratory insufficiency and people that have weak immune systems. The usual symptoms of bronchitis are also similar to many of the other respiratory illnesses and because of this, it can be difficult for the doctor to make the correct diagnosis.

Bronchitis is categorized as either acute or chronic. Acute bronchitis can last from a few days to a few weeks. Symptoms that last for up to 90 days are usually classified as acute bronchitis and symptoms that last for months or even years are classified as chronic bronchitis. It often presents itself as flu like symptoms. Once the person becomes ill, they may not feel productive. Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, can last for months or years and the symptoms are not as pronounced or debilitating.

Acute bronchitis can be caused by infection or exposure to irritants. Infectious bronchitis occurs most often during the winter months and is caused by viruses or bacteria. Irritative bronchitis may be caused from exposure to various mineral and vegetable dusts, but may also be caused by exposure to fumes from strong acids, ammonia, organic solvents, chlorine, hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide and bromine.

Even if the doctor makes the correct diagnosis, the best type of treatment can be a challenge. Although antibiotics are usually part of the treatments, if it is determined  that the bronchitis is viral, then the treatment with antibiotics is not effective. With some of the viral forms of acute bronchitis, medical treatment may not be necessary at all and the illness will clear up on it's own in a few weeks.

The acute form of bronchitis typically has flu like symptoms that include: A Feeling of Tightness in the Chest, Sore Throat, Congestion, Wheezing and/or Difficulty Breathing and A Low Grade Fever. Since the flu is usually viral in nature and contagious, some instances of acute bronchitis are bacterial and therefore not contagious. Laboratory tests are required to accurately determine if the person who is ill is also contagious. If you follow the information below, you can lower your exposure risk to viruses that can make you ill.

  1. Thoroughly Wash your hands.
  2. Use disinfectant wipes to clean your equipment.
  3. Open doors with a paper towel.
  4. Wash your hands after using the restroom.
  5. Consider getting a flu shot since  the influenza virus can cause acute bronchitis.
  6. Limit your exposure to sick people, especially in public areas like a break room, kitchen or cafeteria.
  7. Try to avoid being around people who are coughing, since most do not cover their mouths when they cough
  8. There are many chemicals, especially the fumes and dust particles that can cause irritation to the bronchial passages. Avoid smoking and smokers whenever possible.

Be aware that none of the above tips are foolproof and that you just need to use good old common sense, but the tips can help to limit your exposure to the viruses that can cause the flu or bronchitis.

The treatments for bronchitis can include bronchodilators, which are aerosol sprays that are inhaled. They help to eliminate the excess production of mucus that obstructs the respiratory tract and help dilate the bronchiole tubes to minimize shortness of breath. Steroids can also be used to strengthen the body's defense mechanism against both bacteria and viruses.

Patients that are under-going treatment for bronchitis need to avoid exposure to any type of irritants and pollutants, specifically: smoke and dust, chemical fumes, astringent substances, vapors from alcohol and gasoline. You must avoid trying to self-medicate yourself, because the use of inappropriate medicines may cause the condition to become more aggravated. Do not take any antibiotics unless your doctor prescribes them. Do not give small children aspirin, unless ordered by the doctor. Before taking aspirin or acetaminophen to temporarily relieve the symptoms, it is very important to see a doctor if the symptoms get worse.

If you have a viral form of acute bronchitis, get plenty of rest, drink fluids and setup a vaporizer or humidifier in the room you are in. The dry air can irritate your throat, causing soreness and even difficulty breathing. Do not use cough suppressants, unless prescribed as they can inhibit the elimination of excess mucus and can sometimes cause serious complications. A hot shower or bath can help to decongest your airways that are clogged with mucus.

If your symptoms persist or get worse after 2 days, it is imperative that you see your doctor. The doctor will give you a physical examination and order laboratory tests to determine the nature of your illness. The doctor will prescribe a specific treatment, once it is determined if the infection is caused by bacteria or something else.

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