A Definition of Bronchitis
A respiratory disease that occurs when the mucus membrane in the bronchial passages within the lungs become inflamed, bronchitis may result in coughing spells that occur with phlegm and breathlessness. Bronchitis may occur in one of two forms: acute, which lasts one to three weeks, and chronic, which lasts at least three months of the year for two years in a row. Another form of bronchitis, asthmatic bronchitis, may occur in people with asthma who experience inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes.
Signs and Symptoms of Bronchitis
Acute bronchitis often results in a hacking cough and phlegm production. Sometimes, people confuse acute bronchitis with an upper respiratory infection because because the symptoms are similar. People with acute bronchitis often experience a shortness of breath, wheezing, a low fever, and chest tightness. Acute bronchitis most often is caused by a virus, but it may sometimes be bacterial in origin. In fact, 90% of acute bronchitis is caused by lung infections that are viral in origin. It is possible for repeated cases of acute bronchitis to result in chronic bronchitis because of the weakened, irritated bronchial airways.
Because of its viral nature, acute bronchitis often can be treated effectively without professional medical assistance. It is important to see a medical provider, however, if you have severe or persistent symptoms, have a high fever, or if you cough up blood. It is best to seek emergency medical help if you have trouble breathing or experience chest pain.
Chronic bronchitis is a serious long-term disorder that most often requires regular medical treatment. Chronic bronchitis is characterized as a cough that occurs every day with phlegm production that lasts for at least three months, two years in a row. Individuals with chronic bronchitis suffer severe shortness of breath, COPD, respiratory failure, and an increased mortality rate.
Chronic bronchitis occurs more often in coal miners, grain handlers, metal molders, and other workers who have continual exposure to dust and fumes. The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is long-term cigarette smoking, because smoking irritates the bronchial tubes and results in excess mucus production. People with chronic bronchitis are encouraged to seek medical attention prior to developing chronic bronchitis.
Most people who acquire acute bronchitis do not need to seek professional medical attention because the culprit is a virus that cannot be treated with antibiotics. Keep in mind that if you have a high fever, a severe cough, chest pain, or trouble breathing, you should consult a doctor. For those who do not experience these symptoms, it is possible to treat bronchitis yourself.
- Breathe steam – Take a hot shower, lean over a steaming bowl of water, or drape a hot towel over your head to inhale steam and loosen the mucus in your lungs.
- Use a humidifier – Run a humidifier in your bedroom while you sleep to add moisture to the air. It’s important to follow the instructions for cleaning the humidifier so that bacteria and mold do not become a problem. Another option is to use a cool-mist humidifier and add a one-pint bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide to a quarter cup of water and run the humidifier day and night to thin the mucus and help to control the infection.
- Stay hydrated – Drink at least eight glasses of water a day to thin mucus and cough it up more easily. Also avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages that dehydrate you.
- Avoid dairy products – Milk and other dairy products contain lactalbumin, which increases the production of mucus in the upper and lower respiratory tract and in the intestines.
Supplements for Treating Bronchitis
Supplements can help you treat bronchitis in one of two ways. First, you can take supplements to strengthen your immune system to help you ward off viruses and infections in the first place. Should you still find yourself suffering from bronchitis, you can take vitamins to help treat your symptoms.
Researchers have found that probiotics, the good bacteria that exists in your digestive tract, benefit the immune system. Probiotics boost the immune system and help to reduce inflammation and prevent infection because good gut bacteria positively impacts the development of T cells and the immune system’s ability to fight off invaders such as viruses and infections. Specifically, probiotic supplements containing Lactobacillus gasseri, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and Bifidobacterium longum are particularly helpful in warding off invaders that cause colds and viral bronchitis.
If you do have bronchitis, there are some vitamins that have been shown to treat bronchitis symptoms. These include vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, and vitamin D. Vitamin C has anti-inflammatory properties to soothe nasal passages and may prevent the occurrence of bronchitis. Vitamins E and A are antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory properties as well. Vitamin D increases immunity to help combat bronchitis symptoms.
Bronchitis certainly can make life miserable, but if you boost your immune system with probiotics and know how to treat your symptoms with vitamins and other natural remedies, you will start feeling like yourself in no time.