Bronchitis is a condition in which the bronchial tubes become inflamed. The lining of these tubes produces large amounts of mucus, provoking a persistent painful or whooping cough.
Chronic bronchitis is characterized by the increased mucus secretion associated with a chronic cough lasting three months to one year and for at least two consecutive years. However, this definition is not complete because it is still necessary to subject the patient to lung and cardiac examinations in order to distinguish it from other illnesses.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
You may have acute bronchitis if you have a dry cough for a week or more or, later, a moist cough with mucus; if you are short of breath; or if you are tired for no reason. Your body temperature may be slightly elevated to about 38.5°C (101°F) for about four days. A higher temperature, or a fever that isn't gone within a week, may suggest a bacterial infection such as pneumonia. It's important to see a doctor in this situation. Fever is unusual and suggests pneumonia or flu.
The early stages of chronic bronchitis is characterized by a heavy morning expectoration of the phlegm that had accumulated during sleep in a horizontal position. The mucous glands are enlarged; the bronchial wall (the wall of the pulmonary tissues) gets infected. The mucus in the airways creates a good environment for viruses and bacteria to breed. This makes people with chronic bronchitis and COPD more prone to other infections such as pneumonia. Infection of the lung tissue leads to the formation of heavy phlegm, which causes the inhaled air to spread unevenly in the lungs. In late, severe stages, patients suffer from insufficient blood oxygenation (hypoxia) resulting in cyanosis, which is an abnormal blue discoloration of the skin and lips (also called "blue bloaters").
Get plenty of rest and drink a lot of liquids. A lack of fluids makes the mucus thicker and therefore hard to cough out. Cough medications may be used as suppressants for just the dry cough and expectorants that thin the bronchial secretions. Use a hot or cold humidifier to help with bringing the mucus up so that you can get it out of your body. Pain can be treated by acetaminophen and ibuprofen (although ibuprofen should not be used if you are asthmatic). People with bronchitis often have difficulty breathing while eating. They should therefore avoid foods that are hard and/or take long to chew, such as meat and raw vegetables. Oxygen therapy may also help with breathing.
There is no cure for chronic bronchitis. Treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms and preventing complications. Quit smoking and avoid other airborne irritants. The use of bronchodilator medication can be suggested to open obstructed airways in people who have associated wheezing with their coughing, or underlying asthma or COPD. If you have chronic bronchitis, do not go out for a walk if the air quality is significantly impaired. Lying down at night can worsen the condition, so some people with advanced chronic bronchitis must sleep sitting up.