Bronchitis is a respiratory illness that causes the mucus membranes inside the bronchial passages to become severely inflamed. As the mucus membrane thickens and becomes more swollen, it starts to impact the amount of air that a person can inhale. As a result, people with bronchitis will have a severe cough, pain in the chest, and may struggle to breathe clearly.
The reason that people develop the mucus membrane inflammation leading to bronchitis can vary. It often results from cold or flu virus. It can also result from preventable behaviors like cigarette smoking.
A deep-sounding cough is the main symptom of bronchitis. The cough is often quite painful, often causing serious lung and overall chest pain. Sometimes, people with bronchitis will cough up mucus as well. When a person with bronchitis struggles to breathe, they may wheeze. This means that bronchitis can sound similar to an asthma attack in some cases.
Chronic bronchitis, which is caused by lung irritants like cigarettes, is not contagious. Acute bronchitis, the type that is usually caused by a cold or flu virus, is usually contagious.
The approach to bronchitis treatment depends on what type of bronchitis it is. Treatment for acute bronchitis can be centered largely on allowing the body time to recover, as the condition will resolve on its own. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses, the main cause of acute bronchitis. Anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen can soothe a painful throat. People who are recovering from acute bronchitis should drink plenty of liquid to help expel the mucus from the lungs. For people who suffer from chronic bronchitis, treatment may include the regular use of bronchodilators, steroids to strengthen the lungs or oxygen therapy.