Bronchitis is a breathing problem. When you have it, your airway linings or bronchial tubes become inflamed, making it harder to draw in air. This is often accompanied by a cough, wheezing and mucus production.
The term "bronchitis" actually refers to two types: acute and chronic. Though they share the name and a number of the same symptoms, the two diseases are actually quite different.
Acute bronchitis, for example, is caused by an illness, or infection. This is almost always a virus. It causes chest congestion, wheeziness, coughing, a sore throat, body aches, fever and mucus production. But the illness usually passes in a few days and rarely lasts more than a few weeks.
Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, is long-lasting. And though it can be treated, it often cannot be cured. If your symptoms last for months on end or even years, then you likely have chronic bronchitis.
Most often, chronic bronchitis is related to smoking. But workers exposed to environmental hazards also run the risk of developing it. Over time, the lungs become permanently inflamed, and they're more prone to frequent infections from the same viruses that cause acute bronchitis. The difference is that people with chronic bronchitis have compromised their airways and are more likely to develop these illnesses more frequently.
Treatment of Bronchitis
Because acute bronchitis is caused by a virus, antibiotics will not help to heal the lungs. However, people can do a number of things to make themselves more comfortable while the infection passes. It’s advisable to drink plenty of fluids, use a humidifier to make the air more moist and take over-the-counter medications to help with certain symptoms. Getting plenty of rest is also a good idea.
Chronic bronchitis can be treated, but the most important factor is to catch it early and stop the harmful activities that are contributing to it, such as smoking. Regular exercise, weight loss and other steps will help in managing chronic bronchitis. As the disease progresses, it puts you at risk for more serious respiratory problems and even heart failure.
SOURCES: American Academy of Family Physicians: American Lung Association