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Bronchitis

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Definition

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining (mucous membrane) of inner walls of the bronchi. Bronchi or the bronchial tubes are the main air passages to the lungs.

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Types

  • Acute Bronchitis - This is an acute condition that clears away as soon as the causative agent is removed
  • Chronic Bronchitis - This is a long-term, ongoing, serious condition characterized by production of excessive bronchial secretions and chronic cough.

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Causes

  • Acute Bronchitis
    • Respiratory viruses
    • Secondhand cigarette smoke
    • Household cleaners
    • Smog
    • Occupational exposure to fumes, chemicals (ammonia, strong acids, chlorine, hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide or bromine), irritants and dust (cotton, flax or hemp dust)
    • Acid reflux

  • Chronic Bronchitis
    • Cigarette smoking
    • Air pollution
    • Respiratory tract infection
    • Allergies

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Symptoms

  • Feeling of tightness in the chest
  • Chronic productive cough which may be blood streaked
  • Breathing difficulty which may be aggravated by exertion or mild activity
  • Frequent airway problems such as colds, ear infection, pneumonia or asthma.
  • Wheezing
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling of ankles, feet and legs.
  • Reddish plethora on the face (cheeks) and palms
  • Vision problems
  • Headaches

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Implications

Chronic bronchitis increases your risk of developing lung cancer and progressive lung damage. Recurrent bronchitis caused by mycoplasma or chlamydia may trigger asthma attacks. There is some scientific evidence that respiratory tract infections caused by these organisms may trigger coronary artery disease, stroke or severe hypertension.

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What You Can Do

  • Medications
    • Antibiotics orally for infections caused by bacteria, mycoplasma or chlamydia
    • Bronchodilators like albuterol and ipratropium either orally or as inhalers.
    • Steroids either inhaled or taken orally
    • Cough medicine should be used if coughing becomes unbearable and keeps you awake at night.

  • Postural Drainage
    • Postural drainage of excessive bronchial secretions may facilitate clearing of the airways.

  • Home Care
    • Physical exercise
    • Breathing exercises.
    • Patient education programs
    • Plenty of rest
    • Drink plenty of fluids and warm drinks
    • Home oxygen for people with low oxygen
    • Inhalation of humidified warm air can help loosen secretions and ease coughing. It is best if mucus is allowed to be coughed up as it helps to remove irritants from the lungs and clear the air passages.
    • Avoid occupational exposure to irritant fumes, chemicals and dust by wearing a mask while performing these tasks at work.

  • Prevention
    • Avoid cigarette smoking including exposure to secondhand smoke.
    • Avoid exposure to cold, damp environment or exposure to abrupt changes in temperature.
    • An annual flu shot will provide protection against flu and its complications e.g. bronchitis, pneumonia

  • Support Groups
    • The stress of illness can often be reduced by joining a support group where members share common experiences and problems.

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Bronchitis