Bronchitis is when the airways in your lungs and bronchi become inflamed. This irritation can cause bouts of severe coughing that bring up mucus, wheezing, chest pain, and shortness of breath. There are two types of bronchitis, acute and chronic. Here we’ll outline what causes chronic bronchitis, the differences between acute and chronic bronchitis, and what you can do to manage the condition.
When is Bronchitis Considered Chronic?
Acute bronchitis usually develops from a respiratory infection such as a cold and goes away in a week or two. Chronic bronchitis is a more serious condition that develops over time. Symptoms can get better or worse but never will never go completely away. The symptoms of chronic bronchitis include:
- Shortness of breath
- Fever and chills
- Chest discomfort
- Sinus congestion
- Bad breath
Cigarette smoking is a major cause of chronic bronchitis. Other factors that increase your risk of developing chronic bronchitis include exposure to air pollution as well as dust or toxic gasses in the workplace or environment. It can also occur if you have a family history of bronchitis. Acute bronchitis is usually mild and doesn’t cause complications. The symptoms usually resolve on their own and lung function returns to normal.
Can Chronic Bronchitis Be Cured?
Although there’s no cure for chronic bronchitis, the disease can be managed with medical treatment and lifestyle changes, especially when it’s diagnosed early on. Twice as many women get diagnosed with chronic bronchitis as men do. Most people who have the disease are 44-65. Below, we’ll outline the things you can do to help manage chronic bronchitis.
Lifestyle Adjustments to Manage Chronic Bronchitis
If you’re a smoker, you should consider quitting immediately. If you live in an area with high pollution, you should wear a mask whenever you’re outside. If you work in an industry where you’re exposed to paint or household cleaners with strong fumes, you should also wear a mask.
Making certain lifestyle changes and trying natural remedies can help you alleviate the symptoms of chronic bronchitis, including:
- Using a humidifier. Breathing in warm, moist air from a humidifier can ease coughs and loosen mucus in your airways. Always make sure you clean your humidifier according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Bacteria and fungi can grow inside the water container if it isn’t properly cleaned.
- Physical activity. Physical activity can help strengthen the muscles that help you breathe. Try to exercise at least three times a week for 30 minutes. If you’re new to exercise, start slowly and gradually increase the length and intensity of your workout routine.
- Breathing exercises. Breathing through pursed lips can sometimes provide relief when you’re having difficulty breathing. In pursed-lip breathing, you take a deep breath and then slowly breathe out through your mouth. As you breathe out, purse your lips as if you’re about to kiss someone. This can help regulate your breathing and make you feel better when short of breath.
Medical Treatments to Manage Chronic Bronchitis
Medical treatments can have a positive effect on managing your chronic bronchitis. Depending on the severity of your condition, your medical treatment plan may include some of the following:
- A bronchodilator. A bronchodilator is a type of medicine that opens the airways in your lungs, making it easier to breathe. It’s usually breathed in through an inhaler, which is a device that pumps the medicine into your lungs.
- Theophylline. This is an oral medication that relaxes the muscles in your airways so they open up more, which helps relieve any breathing problems you may experience. This is usually prescribed if you suffer from severe shortness of breath.
- Steroids. If your symptoms don’t improve with a bronchodilator or theophylline, your doctor may prescribe steroids. These medications can be taken with an inhaler or in pill form.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation. Pulmonary rehabilitation is a program that’s designed to improve your breathing and overall well-being. It often involves exercise, nutritional counseling, and breathing strategies. Your doctor may refer you to a rehabilitation program at a hospital near you.
If you believe you or a loved one has chronic bronchitis or would like to learn more about treatment, contact your nearest Baptist Health location today.
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