What is Bronchitis?
Bronchitis is an inflammation in the lining of the bronchial tubes
or bronchi, the air passages that extend from the windpipe into the
lungs. The inflammation can be caused by bacteria, a virus, dust or
smoking. Tiny hairs called cilia, line the bronchial passage and trap
incoming pollutants. They move rhythmically back and forth, creating
an upward current that directs any trapped particles up through the
trachea (windpipe) and into the throat. If these tiny hairs are continually
irritated by habits such as smoking, they can stop functioning. The
result is that the air passage becomes clogged with debris, which
causes further irritation with the secretion of a mucus that brings
on the well-known cough of bronchitis.
Types of Bronchitis
Acute Bronchitis is the sudden inflammation of the bronchial tree
which includes the trachea (windpipe) and the bronchi (air passages
of lungs). This is usually associated with a respiratory tract infection
such as the common cold. Brief episodes of acute bronchitis often
develop from a harsh cold, which may be accompanied with a flu and
a cough with mucus production. On average, acute bronchitis can last
for 10 or 12 days. Apart from the obvious symptoms of a cold, a person
may feel, weak and suffer chest pain.
Chronic Bronchitis is described as an excessive secretion of mucus
in the bronchi and a chronic or re-occurring cough, which lasts for
several months, then returns year after year. Health practitioners
usually attempt to rule out serious lung infections, cancer or heart
disease before diagnosing chronic bronchitis. This form of bronchitis
can develop from continuing episodes of acute bronchitis or gradually
due to smoking or the inhalation of contaminated air. People who have
chronic bronchitis are more susceptible to bacterial infections of
the airway and lungs, like pneumonia. Chronic bronchitis can be life
threatening and immediate medical treatment should be sought.
Bronchitis and Smoking
The figures clearly indicate the strong link between cigarette smoking
and chronic bronchitis. Unless other irritants can be isolated as
the cause of an individual case of chronic bronchitis, then the person
if a smoker, should give up immediately. Remember, smoking kills!
Please view our stop-smoking section for further details.
Bronchitis sufferers are treated through a combination of rest, fluid
intake, antibiotics, decongestants and cough suppressants, which are
prescribed by a GP, depending on the severity of the case. Importantly,
a person suffering from chronic bronchitis needs to make some serious
lifestyle changes, by taking more exercise, stopping smoking, improving
their diet and avoiding dust, cold/dry air.