Bronchitis is a respiratory disease in which the lung’s mucous membranes, the airways, and the windpipes become inflamed. This results in coughing spells and sometimes accompanied by phlegm and breathlessness.
A persistent cough is the most common symptom of bronchitis. In many cases, the cough will dislodge mucus. Bronchitis also frequently causes pain in the chest area due to a deep cough. Some bronchitis sufferers may experience wheezing, a low-grade fever, and problems with breathing.
Acute bronchitis is short-term, usually lasting anywhere from several days up to about 10 days. Chronic bronchitis is a long-term condition in which the airways and windpipe are continually inflamed.
It depends on the cause of bronchitis. If the bronchitis is caused by a virus or bacteria, it may be contagious. However, bronchitis that results from smoking or some other inhaled substance is not contagious.
Treatment for bronchitis depends on whether the condition is acute or chronic and the actual cause of bronchitis. The majority of acute bronchitis cases are viral in origin and will typically resolve on their own. The doctor can prescribe medication for a painful cough and can recommend methods to shorten the duration of the illness. For example, rest and hydration are both key to recovery. For chronic bronchitis that exists along with a respiratory infection, antibiotics are often prescribed.
There are several ways that patients can minimize the chances of developing bronchitis. Patients should avoid smoking and should not allow someone to smoke indoors. To minimize irritants in the home, for example, dust mites and pet dander, vacuuming regularly and changing air filters frequently can be helpful. Eating utensils, bottles and cups should never be shared as this can result in the transfer of germs (and bronchitis along with them, in some cases).
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