February 7, 2017

Bronchitis is an acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term) inflammation of the airways of the lungs. It is caused by infection, cigarette smoking, and inhalation of environmental pollutants. The most characteristic symptoms are coughing and wheezing. Treatment of bronchitis primarily involves the relief of symptoms and, in cases of chronic bronchitis, minimizing damage to the airways.

Bronchitis occurs when the bronchioles (air tubes in the lungs) – which carry air to and from your lungs, are inflamed and make too much mucus. More specifically, bronchitis describes a condition where the lining of the bronchial tubes becomes inflamed or infected. People with bronchitis have a reduced ability to breathe in air and oxygen into their lungs; they also have heavy mucus or phlegm forming in their airways.

Bronchitis, which can affect anyone, is one of the most common conditions for which people seek medical advice. It occurs mostly in winter, especially during outbreaks of influenza. People with bronchitis are more susceptible to developing pneumonia, which is a serious bacterial or viral infection of the lungs.  Inflammation of the airways causes them to narrow and secrete thick mucus, or phlegm, which clogs the small airways, causing the characteristic cough of bronchitis, wheezing, and shortness of breath. The cough may produce sputum, which is phlegm coughed up from the lungs. This is known as a productive cough – an attempt by the body to clear mucus that is clogging the airways.

Types of Bronchitis

  • Chronic bronchitis is a cough that persists for two to three months each year for at least two years. The cough and inflammation may be caused by infection, illness, or exposure to tobacco smoke or other irritating substances in the air.
  • Acute or short-term bronchitis is more common and usually is caused by a viral infection. Episodes of acute bronchitis can be related to and worsened by smoking.


Although acute and chronic bronchitis are both inflammations of the air passages, their causes and treatments are different.

Acute Bronchitis – Acute bronchitis is most prevalent in winter. It usually follows a viral infection, such as a cold or the flu, and can be accompanied by a secondary bacterial infection. Acute bronchitis resolves within two weeks, although the cough may persist longer. Acute bronchitis, like any upper airway inflammatory process, can increase a person’s likelihood of developing pneumonia.

Anyone can get acute bronchitis, but infants, young children, and the elderly are more likely to get the disease because people in these age groups generally have weaker immune systems. Smokers and people with heart or other lung diseases are also at higher risk of developing acute bronchitis. Individuals exposed to chemical fumes or high levels of air pollution also have a greater chance of developing acute bronchitis.

Chronic Bronchitis – Chronic bronchitis is a major cause of disability and death in the United States. The American Lung Association estimates that about 14 million Americans suffer from the disease. Like acute bronchitis, chronic bronchitis is an inflammation of airways accompanied by coughing and spitting up of phlegm. In chronic bronchitis, these symptoms are present for at least three months in each of two consecutive years.

Chronic bronchitis is caused by inhaling bronchial irritants, especially cigarette smoke. Until recently, more men than women developed chronic bronchitis, but as the number of women who smoke has increased, so has their rate of chronic bronchitis. Because this disease progresses slowly, middle-aged and older people are more likely to be diagnosed with chronic bronchitis.

Who is at Risk?

  • The elderly
  • People breathing in irritating chemicals
  • Smokers
  • Those with a lung condition, such as asthma
  • People with poor immunity


Symptoms for both acute and chronic bronchitis include –

  • Persistent cough, which may produce mucus
  • Wheezing
  • Low fever and chills
  • Chest tightening
  • Sore throat
  • Body aches
  • Breathlessness
  • Headaches
  • Blocked nose and sinuses.

One of the main symptoms of acute bronchitis is a cough that lasts for several weeks. It can sometimes last for several months if the bronchial tubes take a long time to fully heal.

It is common for the symptoms of chronic bronchitis to get worse two or more times every year, and they are often worse during the winter months. However, a cough that refuses to go away could also be a sign of another illness such as asthma or pneumonia.



  • Bronchodilators – increase airflow by opening airways and help make it easier to breathe
  • Corticosteroids – reduce inflammation. They are either inhaled using an inhaler or taken by mouth. These drugs are usually used to treat moderate to severe COPD
  • Cough medicines – Two types of cough medicines, cough suppressants (for a dry cough) or expectorants (for a wet, productive cough that brings up mucus), are available over-the-counter and by prescription.
  • Antibiotics – Studies show that antibiotics are not an effective treatment for acute bronchitis, and they may contribute to antibiotic resistance.

Lifestyle Changes

  • Removing the source of irritation to the lungs – for example, by stopping smoking
  • Using a humidifier – this can loosen mucus and relieve limited airflow and wheezing
  • Exercise – this will strengthen the muscles involved in breathing
  • Breathing exercises – for example, pursed-lip breathing that helps to slow breathing down.

Alternative Treatment

N-acetylecysteine (NAC) – NAC is a modified form of a dietary amino acid that works as an antioxidant in the body. Several studies indicate that it may help relieve symptoms of COPD by acting as an antioxidant to reduce oxidative stress on the lungs (damage caused by free radicals, particles that harm cells and DNA).

Probiotics – Probiotics help prevent infections in the intestines, and there is preliminary evidence that they might help prevent respiratory infections.

Colloidal Silver – All natural colloidal silver, pure sterilized water, or a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and sterilized water and pure silver particles, has been known to strengthen the immune system. Particularly effective for acute and chronic bronchitis sufferers, is using a nebulae, or electric inhalation machine to calm bronchitis symptoms, and promote rapid recovery from acute bronchitis.

Vitamin Supplements – Vitamin C provides antihistaminic relief due to its ability to detoxify and metabolize histamines in the system. The antioxidant vitamin E is helpful to treat the symptoms of chronic bronchitis. Vitamin E levels are typically lower in smokers than nonsmokers. Since bronchitis is linked to smoking, vitamin E supplementation is important for bronchitis treatment. Vitamin A treatment is helpful for treating bronchitis, notes the Alternative-Health-Group.

Semen sinapis alba has been shown to ease difficult breathing and coughing due to colds, bronchitis, and phlegm retention. With its pungent taste and warm nature, this herb removes obstructions from respiratory channels, and aids in recovery from acute bronchitis.

Echinacea – Echinacea may help prevent colds, which can lead to bronchitis.

Andrographis –  Andrographis may also help lessen cold symptoms and possibly reduce your risk of getting bronchitis.

Ginseng – Studies suggest that taking American ginseng may help prevent colds, as well as reduce the number of colds experienced and the severity of symptoms.

Lobelia – Also called Indian tobacco, lobelia has a long history of use as an herbal remedy for respiratory problems including bronchitis.

Ivy herbal extract – Studies show that ivy herbal extract, in the form of syrup or cough drops, resolved cough-related symptoms among both children and adults.

Zinc – This helps to speed up tissue repair.

Aromatherapy – Running a humidifier with an essential oil such as cedarwood, bergamot, eucalyptus, myrrh, sweet fennel, jasmine, lavender, tea tree, or marjoram at night may help thin mucus and ease cough


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