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Acute Bronchitis

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, the airways that carry air to your lungs. It causes a cough that often brings up mucus. It can also cause shortness of breath, wheezing, a low fever, and chest tightness. There are two main types of bronchitis: acute and chronic.

Most cases of acute bronchitis get better within several days. But your cough can last for several weeks after the infection is gone.

The same viruses that cause colds and the flu often cause acute bronchitis. These viruses spread through the air when people cough, or though physical contact (for example, on unwashed hands). Being exposed to tobacco smoke, air pollution, dusts, vapors, and fumes can also cause acute bronchitis. Less often, bacteria can also cause acute bronchitis.

To diagnose acute bronchitis, your health care provider will ask about your symptoms and listen to your breathing. You may also have other tests.

Treatments include rest, fluids, and aspirin (for adults) or acetaminophen to treat fever. A humidifier or steam can also help. You may need inhaled medicine to open your airways if you are wheezing. Antibiotics won't help if the cause is viral. You may get antibiotics if the cause is bacterial.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Chronic Bronchitis

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, the airways that carry air to your lungs. It causes a cough that often brings up mucus. It can also cause shortness of breath, wheezing, a low fever, and chest tightness. There are two main types of bronchitis: acute and chronic.

Chronic bronchitis is one type of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). The inflamed bronchial tubes produce a lot of mucus. This leads to coughing and difficulty breathing. Cigarette smoking is the most common cause. Breathing in air pollution, fumes, or dust over a long period of time may also cause it.

To diagnose chronic bronchitis, your doctor will look at your signs and symptoms and listen to your breathing. You may also have other tests.

Chronic bronchitis is a long-term condition that keeps coming back or never goes away completely. If you smoke, it is important to quit. Treatment can help with your symptoms. It often includes medicines to open your airways and help clear away mucus. You may also need oxygen therapy. Pulmonary rehabilitation may help you manage better in daily life.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Cough

Coughing is a reflex that keeps your throat and airways clear. Although it can be annoying, coughing helps your body heal or protect itself. Coughs can be either acute or chronic. Acute coughs begin suddenly and usually last no more than 2 to 3 weeks. Acute coughs are the kind you most often get with a cold, flu, or acute bronchitis. Chronic coughs last longer than 2 to 3 weeks. Causes of chronic cough include

  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
  • Smoking
  • Throat disorders, such as croup in young children
  • Some medicines

Water can help ease your cough - whether you drink it or add it to the air with a steamy shower or vaporizer. If you have a cold or the flu, antihistamines may work better than non-prescription cough medicines. Children under four should not have cough medicine. For children over four, use caution and read labels carefully.

Antibiotics

Antibiotics are powerful medicines that fight bacterial infections. Used properly, antibiotics can save lives. They either kill bacteria or keep them from reproducing. Your body's natural defenses can usually take it from there.

Antibiotics do not fight infections caused by viruses, such as

  • Colds
  • Flu
  • Most coughs and bronchitis
  • Sore throats, unless caused by strep

If a virus is making you sick, taking antibiotics may do more harm than good. Using antibiotics when you don't need them, or not using them properly, can add to antibiotic resistance. This happens when bacteria change and become able to resist the effects of an antibiotic.

When you take antibiotics, follow the directions carefully. It is important to finish your medicine even if you feel better. If you stop treatment too soon, some bacteria may survive and re-infect you. Do not save antibiotics for later or use someone else's prescription.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Bronchial Disorders

The bronchi are two tubes that branch off the trachea, or windpipe. The bronchi carry air to your lungs.

The most common problem with the bronchi is bronchitis, an inflammation of the tubes. Bronchitis can be acute or chronic. Other problems include

  • Bronchiectasis, a condition in which damage to the airways causes them to widen and become flabby and scarred
  • Exercise-induced bronchospasm, which happens when the airways shrink while you are exercising
  • Bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the small airways that branch off from the bronchi
  • Bronchopulmonary dysplasia, a condition affecting infants

Treatment of bronchial disorders depends on the cause.