Bronchitis is characterized by inflammation of the bronchi, the ducts that carry inhaled air from the windpipe to the lungs. The inflammation makes it harder to breathe because the walls of the bronchi are swollen and produce a lot of mucus. Bronchitis is accompanied by a deep cough.
For the vast majority of people, bronchitis lasts 2 to 3 weeks and is not a problem. The cough, however, may persist a little longer. This bronchitis is called acute bronchitis to distinguish it from chronic bronchitis, which lasts more than 3 months per year.
Acute bronchitis most commonly occurs in the fall or winter. It is frequent: the majority of individuals have it at least once during their life.
People who contract acute bronchitis and whose bronchi are weakened by another respiratory disease, such as asthma, have more pronounced symptoms. In addition, the risks of complications and the treatments are different.
Symptoms of bronchitis
A deep cough, where Coughing intensifies when lying down, outdoors when the air is cold and dry, and if the air is loaded with irritants, such as cigarette smoke.
Clear, yellowish, or greenish viscous sputum
General discomfort: chills, fatigue, decreased appetite, headaches, physical aches. There may be a slight fever.
Chest pain and a feeling of compression in the lungs
Shortness of breath
Sometimes bronchitis is accompanied by sinusitis, pharyngitis or laryngitis. With pharyngitis, the throat is sore and there is pain when swallowing. With laryngitis, the voice becomes hoarse or dies off altogether.
Causes and risk factors of bronchitis
The most common cause of acute bronchitis is viral infection. Viruses are inhaled and then spread to the bronchial tubes. Often a cold or the flu precedes bronchitis. Viral bronchitis is contagious.
More rarely, the infection can be caused by bacteria (for example, those that can also cause pneumonia) or by whooping cough.
Irritation of the lungs
Inhaling fine particles in the air that irritate the lungs, such as those in cigarette smoke and fumes from a wood stove, can trigger or worsen bronchitis. A strong presence of mold can also be irritating, as can dust or toxic gases in the workplace, as well as smog. Once inhaled, these particles weaken the mucous membrane of the respiratory tract. In particular, they trigger inflammatory reactions. Some people are more sensitive to it. This is particularly the case for children and people who suffer from allergic rhinitis or asthma.
Finally, acute bronchitis can also be a sign of asthma. Indeed, in studies, researchers have observed that many people who see a doctor for acute bronchitis actually have asthma without knowing it.
Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke.
Live or work in a place where chemicals are circulating in the air and irritating the lungs.
Being exposed to strong air pollution. In times of fog (smog), cases of bronchitis are more frequent. In addition, the fog accentuates the symptoms of bronchitis
People at risk
Children and the elderly.
People whose immune system is weakened by chronic stress, another disease, etc.
People with asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema or heart failure.
People with cystic fibrosis because their airways get blocked with secretions, which contributes to infections.
Simple bronchitis is not worrying in a healthy person. In the majority of cases, symptoms will go away on their own without treatment within 21 days.
If bronchitis persists for more than 3 months or if repeated bronchitis occurs, it is important to get the correct treatment.
Also, sometimes acute bronchitis worsens into pneumonia. This situation is more common among the elderly.
Measures to prevent bronchitis and its recurrence
Medical treatments for acute bronchitis
Although acute bronchitis usually resolves on its own, it is important to see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis, especially when the following symptoms occur:
The doctor examines the lungs with a stethoscope and makes specific recommendations based on the cause of the bronchitis and the symptoms reported.