Bronchitis occurs when the bronchial tubes found in the trachea become inflamed. This inflammation also swells the breathing tubes in the lungs, making it hard for one to catch their breath. There is also an increased production of fluids in the lungs. This inflammation is often caused by a viral infection and leads to a diagnosis of acute bronchitis.
When you develop bronchitis, you will also develop a cough which can appear suddenly. In conjunction with bronchitis, you may also experience the common cold symptoms including a sore throat, runny nose, and sinus congestion. Bronchitis is also common with the flu, the RSV virus, and sinus infections. Certain bacteria can also lead to the development of bronchitis as can the inhalation of hazardous debris and chemicals including tobacco smoke and chemical solvents. Medical treatment should be sought when shortness of breath occurs with the coughing. You may also need a doctor’s care if your cold or flu symptoms become urgent such as with a high fever or you cough up discolored mucus frequently. Treatment for acute bronchitis may involve albuterol treatments or anti-inflammation drugs to reduce the bronchial swelling.
There is also the possibility of developing chronic bronchitis which produces a daily cough that results in producing phlegm with each cough for a period of at least three months. Shortness of breath and wheezing are also symptoms of chronic bronchitis and require medical attention. Doctors may use diagnostic tests along with a physical exam to diagnose chronic bronchitis. A chest x-ray, blood tests, and a CT scan of the chest are all tests which may be administered. Cases of chronic bronchitis will require ongoing treatment including bronchodilators like albuterol to relate the bronchi muscles and make breathing easier. Steroids may also be administered to reduce inflammation.
Those undergoing treatment for both acute and chronic bronchitis may be restricted in their activities due to the difficulty in breathing. Those with bronchitis should also avoid work environments where chemicals and debris are frequently found in the air which can trigger additional breathing problems, such as COPD. A doctor will recommend the appropriate amount of time to remain out of work depending on a case-by-case diagnosis.