Bronchitis or Bronchial Infection is usually caused by persistent lung infections, most of which is viral. The most common culprit is air pollution, mainly the industrial pollution, which is a major cause of chronic bronchial infection or chronic bronchitis. It is found in higher concentration i.e. above average rates among those who work in quarries, mining field and also grain handlers. They are continually exposed to dust particles and poisonous fumes. Apart from this, the chief cause in the majority of population is governed by heavy smoking. Long-term cigarette smoking affects the bronchial tubes and leads to excess mucus production. The symptoms of Bronchitis or Bronchial Infection get worsened by higher concentrations of sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and other pollutants in the atmosphere. As this region gets infected, people may experience blood in cough, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, chest constriction, coughing and wheezing. Medical attention is required considering the severity and complexity of symptoms of Bronchitis or Bronchial Infection. Patients who actually have difficulty in breathing should immediately seek medical help.

What is Bronchitis or Bronchial Infection?

What is Bronchitis or Bronchial Infection?

Bronchitis is commonly defined as chest infection, where the windpipe carrying air to the lungs is affected in the lower respiratory tract. A bronchial infection causes the lining of the bronchial tubes to swell and inflame, which is known as bronchitis. Since bronchi constitute the main passage towards lungs with small bronchial tubes going deeper within the chest, it is usually caused by the air-borne virus that is inhaled due to which the mucous membrane gets inflamed more than usual. It irritates the membrane which gets swollen thus reducing the airway passage resulting in coughing spells. These coughing spells are usually accompanied by breathlessness. At times phlegm is also there. Some people with asthma also have the problem of recurrent bronchial infection, usually known as asthmatic bronchitis.

Types of Bronchitis or Bronchial Infection

Bronchitis or Bronchial Infection generally affects people in two forms–Acute Bronchitis (which lasts for one to three weeks) and chronic Bronchitis (which lasts for minimum 3 months to two years in a continuum).

  • Acute Bronchitis or Acute Bronchial Infection: In acute bronchitis, there are symptoms of hacking cough and it also produces phlegm that at times is accompanied by an upper respiratory tract infection. In most cases, it is a viral infection, but sometimes bacterial infection is also found. For those who maintain good health and take care of hygiene, acute bronchitis is not a big deal as mucous membrane returns to normal after being recovered from initial lung infection which doesn't last more than a few days.
  • Chronic Bronchitis or Chronic Bronchial Infection: Chronic bronchitis, however, is a serious ailment and a long term disorder which requires medical attention. Chronic bronchitis again can be categorized as one of two main types of a COPD. The other major form of COPD is emphysema. Both forms of COPD are accompanied by difficulty in breathing.

Symptoms of Bronchitis or Bronchial Infection

Symptoms of Bronchitis or Bronchial Infection

Symptoms of Bronchitis or Bronchial Infection usually include:

  • Coughing up yellow or grey mucus
  • Wheezing
  • Sore Throat
  • Nose Block.

Chronic bronchial infection might include the following symptoms as well:

  • Cough with blood
  • High fever
  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest pain.

Causes of Bronchitis or How Do You Get Bronchial Infection?

Bronchitis or Bronchial infections are usually developed by a virus which one gets from the flu or the common cold. Since these diseases are communicable, in the sense that they spread from one person to another, the contraction occurs basically when exposed to an infected person. When one touches the eyes, mouth, or nose after coming in contact with an infected person's body fluids, it can trigger the bronchial infection. Increased amount of oxygen, fluid intake, and humidified air can help fight the symptoms of a mild to moderate bronchial infection caused by virus.

  • Bacterial Causes of Bronchitis or Bronchial Infection: Bacterial causes are almost secondary infections to viral causes. When the bronchial pathways are exposed to bacteria, the microorganisms can quickly make way and proliferate and cause a secondary infection. Bacterial infection is usually detected by discolored sputum which is usually yellow or green.
  • Fungal Causes of Bronchitis or Bronchial Infection: Fungi may also cause a bronchial infection; this is usually caused in people having suppressed immune system response. Although it is rare, the fungi species like Candida, may cause acute bronchitis, which might last for several days to a week or even to several months since fungi naturally lives on and inside the body. In individuals having a compromised immune system response, the body might not be able to adequately keep a check on the amount of fungi and this thus triggers the infection.

How is Bronchitis or Bronchial Infection Diagnosed?

During the initial stages of this illness, it is quite difficult to distinguish between the symptoms of Bronchitis or Bronchial Infection from those of a flu or common cold. While undergoing physical examination, your doctor will take the help of a stethoscope to listen and examine your lungs closely while you breathe.

In most cases of diagnosis, doctors usually suggest:

  • Chest X-Ray: An X-ray of chest is used to determine the causes of infection or any other factor that may explain the condition of your cough. This diagnosis becomes very important if you were ever a smoker or if you smoke currently.
  • Sputum Tests: Sputum is defined as the mucus that you cough up or release from your lungs. It is tested to identify if you are having whooping cough (pertussis) or any other illnesses that can be cured by antibiotics. Sputum test can also be done for checking any prevailing signs of allergies.
  • Lung Function Tests: While diagnosing lung functions, your doctor might prescribe you some do's and don'ts so that you take proper care of yourself during and after bronchial infection. This includes a number of tests viz., residual volume tests, body plethysmography, gas diffusion tests, exercise stress tests, inhalation tests and also Spirometry.
  • Spirometry test: When a pulmonary function test is conducted, you are asked to blow into a device known as a spirometer. This device measures how much air the lungs can hold or are currently holding and how quickly you can exhale the air out of the lungs. The test is a must for checking the signs of asthma or emphysema.

What is the Treatment for Bronchitis or Bronchial Infection?

Thankfully, most cases of acute bronchitis or acute bronchial infection can be resolved without medical treatment. The maximum time, they might take is somewhere around two weeks. However, if it doesn't subside, here are some preferable treatment options:

  • Medications to Treat Bronchitis or Bronchial Infection: Following are the medicines which might be prescribed by your doctor-
    • Antibiotics: Since bronchitis usually results from a viral infection, hence antibiotics aren't usually effective in treating bronchial infection. However, a doctor might still prescribe an antibiotic if he or she suspects that the infection is caused by a bacterial invasion.
    • Cough Medicine: It is always considered best not to suppress a cough that brings up the mucus, since coughing also helps in removing the irritants from your lungs and clears the air passages. Still, if your cough keeps you miles away from sleeping, one might also try using cough suppressants or cough medicines at bedtime.
    • Other Medications: If a patient has any allergies or having asthma as well as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); then the doctor may prescribe and recommend an inhaler and some other medications which will reduce inflammation. It might also open up the narrowed passages in your lungs.
  • Therapies: People having chronic bronchitis might benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation, a technique which is a breathing exercise program in which a respiratory therapist teaches you how to breathe easily. This helps in increasing one's ability to exercise.

Prevention of Bronchitis or Bronchial Infection

In order to reduce the risk of bronchitis or bronchial infection, following the basic tips mentioned below helps a lot. These include:

  • Avoid Cigarette and Smoke: Cigarette smoke usually increases the risk of chronic bronchitis. Hence it has to be avoided at all cost. People who smoke, particularly long-time smokers, and also those who experience second-hand smoking, have an increased risk of not just bronchial infection but also lung cancer.
  • Get Vaccinated: Many cases of acute bronchitis might result from influenza, which again caused by an influenza virus. Thus, getting a yearly flu vaccine can help and protect you from getting flu. Considering the option of vaccination that protects against some types of pneumonia is also recommended.
  • Wash Your Hands: To avoid and cure communicable diseases and also to reduce the risk of catching a viral or bacterial infection, consider washing your hands frequently and also get in the habit of using hand sanitizers.
  • Wear a Surgical Mask: If anyone you know is suffering from bronchitis or COPD, considering the idea of wearing a face mask at work and in crowds is worth giving a thought and at times it becomes a necessity since prevention is better than a cure.

Conclusion

Bronchitis or Bronchial infection is a treatable disease which, if diagnosed at an early stage can be properly taken care of. Proper medication helps the patient to recover fast from Bronchitis or Bronchial infection. Implementing adequate prevention strategies is a must to curb this menacing issue which is most commonly seen in industrial zones.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: August 5, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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