Acute and chronic bronchitis: causes, symptoms and treatment

Bronchitis

There bronchitis it is a very widespread inflammatory pathology affecting the bronchial tree and which can be acute, short-lived, or chronic, with persistent symptoms. It can be caused by a bacterial infection, a virus, but it also knows harmful inhalants such as smoke or other irritating gases, as in the case of asthmatic bronchitis. Symptoms are often cough, shortness of breath and fever. Therapy is related to the type of agent that triggers the inflammation of the bronchi. In the following paragraphs we will analyze the other types of bronchitis, the symptoms and the medical treatment necessary for treatment.

What are the bronchi?

To fully understand the characteristics of bronchitis and analyze its types, causes and remedies, it is essential to understand in principle what the bronchi are, how they are structured and what function they perform. The bronchi constitute the airways that follow the trachea, they are essential to bring air from the mouth to the lungs and, vice versa, to eliminate waste gases after the exchange between oxygen and carbon dioxide has taken place in the pulmonary alveoli . The bronchi are divided into primary bronchi (external to the lung) and then, gradually with increasingly smaller caliber, into lobar bronchi, segmental bronchi, lobular bronchi, interlobular bronchioles and terminal bronchioles.

The primary bronchi form the bronchial tree and are in turn subdivided into the right bronchus and the left bronchus (each is located near a lung).
The bronchi have the fundamental task of transferring the air coming from the nose or mouth to the pulmonary alveoli.

Bronchitis Symptoms

One of the symptoms common to the various types of bronchitis (which we will analyze in the next paragraph) is cough, an essential tool thanks to which the body tries to eliminate the pathogen that caused the inflammation. In the case of acute bronchitis, the cough can last for a fairly long period of time which can reach 3 weeks. In the presence of chronic bronchitis, the phenomenon can instead last for several months.
The cough is usually accompanied by the expectoration of yellow or green phlegm in the presence of bacterial bronchitis.
Other types of symptoms that characterize any form of bronchitis are fever, chest pain and shortness of breath. Sometimes, bronchitis can manifest itself as a high fever with no other symptoms while in other cases it may happen that the bronchitis is without cough or without fever.
Bronchitis can affect even the smallest ones. In this regard, the symptoms of bronchitis in children are essentially similar to those found in adults, in particular cough, fever and phlegm.
Is bronchitis contagious? If another person comes into contact with the patient's sputum droplets, they could contract the inflammatory pathology. This occurs through sneezing or coughing and it is therefore always advisable to protect the nose and mouth in these cases, avoiding infecting other individuals.

Types of bronchitis: bacterial, viral, acute, chronic, asthmatic.

Bronchitis can have different characteristics depending on the type of pathogen that is the cause.
The most common form of bronchitis is the acute one which very often results from a normal cold. It is usually possible to get rid of it in a short time even if the cough can persist for several weeks. Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, is more serious and has a much longer lasting symptomatology. In this case (especially in smokers) the bronchi are constantly irritated and inflamed. Chronic bronchitis should not be confused with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. The latter is a disabling lung disease from which it is not always possible to recover. It is usually caused by continual inhalation of noxious gases and is characterized by shortness of breath and chronic cough.
Another fundamental distinction concerns the differences between viral and bacterial bronchitis. The most common cases are related to viral bronchitis, characterized by pain in the back, chest, fever, cough and chest pain (Sometimes, it is incorrectly defined as a "pain in the bronchi"). The viral form does not produce phlegm. This last element in particular distinguishes it from bacterial bronchitis, characterized by catarrhal cough, central chest pain and higher fever.
Bacterial bronchitis must be counteracted with the intake of antibiotics while the viral form can be treated with natural remedies, over-the-counter drugs and a little healthy rest.
Regardless of the type of bronchitis contracted, people with asthma should promptly contact their doctor if one of the symptoms listed above occurs.
In this regard it is worth mentioning another type of bronchitis, namely asthmatic bronchitis or asthmatic bronchitis, characterized by dry cough. In this case, it is difficult for the patient to expectorate. Other symptoms of asthmatic bronchitis are chest discomfort, burning chest pain and in some cases fever.
Bronchitis in children is often linked to colds or laryngitis, and with proper treatment, symptoms go away within three weeks. Even in the case of children, the most common forms are viral and are accentuated by the inhalation of smoke and pollutants. Among the forms of bronchitis that particularly affect children we mention spastic bronchitis or bronchospasm. Asthmatic bronchitis in children is also quite common.
Another inflammatory pathology of the bronchi is infectious bronchitis, caused by viruses such as adenovirus, coronavirus and Mycoplasma pneumoniae.
We close by talking about peribronchitis, a particular inflammatory pathology that affects the interstices of the lung near the bronchi and which can be treated with antibiotics.

Causes of Bronchitis

Among the pathogens that most commonly cause bronchitis, viruses are the most widespread. Bacterial bronchitis are in fact more limited and rare.
Other pathogens, such as smoke or harmful gases, can affect the normal functioning of the bronchi, causing an inflammatory action on the bronchi. In particular, cigarette smoke can affect the regular functioning of the bronchial eyelashes or block their action. In large cities, smog and car exhaust fumes or industrial micro-dust can also cause irritation of the bronchial tree.
The influenza virus is undoubtedly one of the viruses that most often cause bronchitis. In these situations, patients report “I have chest pains when I breathe”.

Bronchitis treatment and natural remedies

Before definitively diagnosing bronchitis, the patient must undergo a careful analysis to first examine the state of health of the upper airways.
As for the cure, the medical treatment obviously depends on the type of bronchitis. In the presence of chronic pathologies, proper nutrition can help the body to counteract inflammation and a sense of heaviness in the chest more effectively. In these cases it is indeed useful to consume vegetables, fruit and foods with a high concentration of omega 3.
To favor the expectoration of the mucus produced by the body in the presence of the bronchial inflammatory state, the consumption of herbal teas and infusions such as sage or mallow can facilitate the expulsion of pathogens.
Even ginger is a real cure-all for bronchitis. Just prepare a hot infusion using a piece of root and sweetening the drink with a teaspoon of honey. The same goes for turmeric, which unlike ginger must be diluted in a cup of hot milk. Both drinks should be consumed three times a day.
To prevent viral forms above all, it may be useful to adequately cover the chest, especially in the coldest periods of the year. Limiting or completely eliminating the habit of smoking is essential especially in the presence of chronic forms of the disease.
Regardless of the type of bronchitis contracted, the patient must necessarily rest for a few days and refrain from carrying out any type of physical activity.
Even consuming hot herbal teas or liquids in general can shorten healing times.
In general, the viral forms resolve autonomously within a week, while for the bacterial ones it is necessary to resort to antibiotics. Bacterial bronchitis must be kept under control and treated in time. Otherwise they could develop into bronchopneumonia.

Differential diagnosis: difference with pneumonia, bronchopneumonia, pleurisy, tracheitis

Bronchitis is often confused with other pathologies that affect the respiratory system and with which it has various similarities, especially as regards the symptoms. Among these we will deal with pneumonia, bronchopneumonia, pleurisy and tracheitis.
Unlike bronchitis which affects only the bronchi, in pneumonia inflammation affects only and exclusively the lung tissue. Not to be confused with pneumonia is the pulmonary outbreak, a particular type of inflammatory pathology that affects only certain parts of the lung and that often results from a flu not treated adequately. The difference between bronchitis and bronchopneumonia is more subtle. The latter represents a particular type of pneumonia which, in addition to affecting lung tissue, also affects the bronchi and bronchioles. The main symptoms of bronchopneumonia include fever, catarrhal cough and shortness of breath. Pleurisy affects a further structural element of the respiratory system other than the bronchi, namely the pleura. The pleura is the membrane that lines the outside of the lungs and wraps around the inside of the chest. Among the main causes of pleurisy, the most common are pneumonia, tuberculosis or the inhalation of substances harmful to the health of the body. In limited cases, pleurisy can be added to pneumonia, giving rise to a pathology known as pleuropneumonia.
Finally, another fundamental difference to underline exists between bronchitis and tracheitis. The latter is nothing more than an inflammation of the trachea that also affects children. Tracheitis is usually of bacterial origin but in other cases it can be viral in nature. External pathogens of a polluting nature such as smog or cigarette smoke can also irritate the trachea and therefore cause tracheitis. Common symptoms include cough, pain in the throat and head.

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