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Bronchitis Overview
Bronchitis is an acute inflammation of the air passages within the lungs. It occurs when the trachea (windpipe) and the large and small bronchi (airways) within the lungs become inflamed because of infection or irritation from other causes. The thin mucous lining of these airways can become irritated and swollen. The cells that make up this lining may leak fluids in response to the inflammation. Coughing is a reflex that works to clear secretions from the lungs. Often the discomfort of a severe cough leads a person to seek medical treatment. Both adults and children can get bronchitis. Symptoms are similar for both. Infants usually get bronchiolitis, which involves the smaller airways and causes symptoms similar to asthma. Asthmatic bronchitis occurs when asthma and bronchitis coexist. Asthma is a chronic inflammatory airway condition that leads to tightening of the muscles around the airways and swelling, both of which cause the airways to narrow. The combination of inflammation of the inner lining of the airways and mucus production can lead to severe wheezing and shortness of breath.

Picture of the lung, bronchi, and airways of the lung

Bronchitis Causes
Bronchitis occurs most often during the cold and flu season, usually coupled with an upper respiratory infection.

Several viruses cause bronchitis, including influenza A and B, commonly referred to as "the flu." A number of bacteria are also known to cause bronchitis, such as Mycoplasma pneumoniae, which causes so-called "walking pneumonia." Bronchitis also can occur when a person inhales irritating fumes or dust. Chemical solvents and smoke, including tobacco smoke, have been linked to acute bronchitis. People at increased risk of both getting bronchitis and of having more severe symptoms include the elderly, those with weakened immune systems, smokers, individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or emphysema, and anyone with repeated exposure to lung irritants

Is Bronchitis Contagious?
Bronchitis describes a group of symptoms (including airway inflammation, over-production of phlegm, and cough), which can have various causes. If the cause of the bronchitis is viral or bacterial, it can be contagious. If the cause of the bronchitis is due to smoking, air pollution, or other inhaled irritants, it is not contagious

Bronchitis Symptoms
Acute bronchitis most commonly occurs after an upper respiratory infection such as the common cold or a sinus infection. The affected person may have symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, nasal congestion, and sore throat. Cough is the most common symptom of bronchitis. The cough may be dry or may produce phlegm. Significant phlegm production suggests that the lower respiratory tract and the lung itself may be infected, and these symptoms suggest pneumonia. The cough may last for more than 2 weeks. Continued forceful coughing may be painful, and can make your chest and abdominal muscles sore. Coughing can be severe enough at times to injure the chest, break ribs, wall or even cause a person to pass out (faint). Wheezing may occur because of the muscular tightness and inflammation of the airways. This may leave the affected individual short of breath. Asthmatic bronchitis symptoms include a combination of wheezing and shortness of breath, in addition to the other symptoms of bronchitis. When to call the doctor for bronchitis Although most cases of bronchitis resolve on their own, some people may have complications. A doctor can prescribe treatments that relieve some of these symptoms. Severe coughing that interferes with rest or sleep can be reduced with prescription cough medications. Wheezing may respond to an inhaler with albuterol (Proventil, Ventolin) or fluticasone and salmeterol (Advair), which dilates the airways. If fever continues beyond 4 to 5 days, see the doctor fto rule out pneumonia or other serious bacterial infections. See a health care professional if the person is coughing up blood, rust-colored sputum, or an increased amount of green phlegm. When to go to the hospital for bronchitis

If the patient experiences difficulty breathing with or without wheezing, go to a hospital's emergency department for evaluation and treatment. If any symptoms become severe, call 911 for immediate treatment and transport to a hospital's emergency department.

Bronchitis Diagnosis
Doctors diagnose bronchitis on the basis of symptoms and a physical examination. Usually no blood tests are necessary. If the doctor suspects the patient has pneumonia, achest X-ray may be ordered. Doctors may measure the patient's oxygen saturation (how well oxygen is reaching blood cells) using a sensor placed on a finger. This is referred to as pulse oximetry. Sometimes a doctor may order an examination and/or culture of a sample of phlegm that is coughed up to look for bacteria.

Bronchitis Treatment Bronchitis Self-Care and Home Remedies

The majority of cases of bronchitis stem from viral infections. This means that most cases of bronchitis are short-term and require nothing more than treatment of symptoms to relieve discomfort. Antibiotics will not cure a viral illness. o Experts in the field of infectious disease have been warning for years that overuse of antibiotics allows bacteria to become resistant to the antibiotics available. o Doctors often prescribe antibiotics because they feel pressured by patient's expectations to receive them. Don't expect to receive a prescription for an antibiotic if your infection is caused by a virus. Acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin,ibuprofen (Motrin, Nuprin, Advil), or naproxen (Aleve) will help with fever and muscle aches. Drinking fluids is very important because fever causes the body to lose fluid faster. Lung secretions will be thinner and easier to clear when the patient is well hydrated. A cool mist vaporizer or humidifier can help decrease bronchial irritation. An over-the-counter (OTC) cough suppressant may be helpful. Preparations with guaifenesin (Robitussin, Breonesin, Mucinex) will loosen secretions; dextromethorphan-the "DM" in most over the counter medications (Benylin, Pertussin, Trocal, Vicks 44) suppresses cough. Natural treatments and home remedies for bronchitis include honey, lemon, ginger, bay leaf, and almonds. Each of these foods has properties that reportedly reduce symptoms of bronchitis. Consult your health care professional before taking or using any natural remedies