Bronchitis can be termed the unrecognized epidemic in India, thanks to the increase in the number of automobiles on the road and the growing air pollution with each passing day. It is a respiratory disorder that comes under the umbrella term chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Bronchial asthma is one of the most common respiratory diseases around the world. As the statistics laid by WHO, 100 to 150 million people suffer from this disease globally, out of which 15 million sufferers are from India. As per their reports, 14 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India. The poor air quality of the country is indeed a matter of national health concern as more are more people are complaining of respiratory and breathing disorders.
What is bronchitis?
When the bronchial tubes that carry air to the lungs get inflamed and swollen, you end up getting bronchitis with a nagging cough and thickened mucus. Your bronchitis can either be chronic or acute.
Acute bronchitis is a more common one. It is also called a chest cold and lasts usually for a week or two and medications are enough to drive it away.
However, chronic bronchitis is a serious one as it recurs and shows no sign of going away at all. This gradually develops into COPD.
Signs and symptoms of bronchitis
Be it for acute or chronic bronchitis, there are some common symptoms:
- A persistent cough
- Mucus production that is thickened
- Fatigue and shortness of breath
- Fever and chills
- Discomfort/heaviness in chest
Acute bronchitis might also be accompanied by other cold symptoms like a mild headache or a body ache that improves with time and medications but a cough might linger for a few weeks before complete recovery.
In the case of chronic bronchitis, a cough can last for at least three weeks and you might have recurring bouts of bronchitis that gets difficult to recover from. At times, the symptoms might worsen with an acute infection.
Causes and risk factors of bronchitis
The virus that gives you cold and flu is also the one that causes acute bronchitis. Since it is a viral infection, antibiotics are not effective in treating bronchitis.
However, for chronic bronchitis, the reason is cigarette smoking, air pollution, dust and toxic environmental gases that we are exposed to on a daily basis.
Here are some factors that increase the risk of bronchitis:
Smoking cigarettes – If you are an active or passive smoker, you are at risk of developing both acute and chronic bronchitis
Weaker immune system – If you have a disease that compromises your immune system, bronchitis can happen. Alternatively, older adults, younger children, and infants are at a higher risk of infection.
Exposure to irritants in the workplace – Grain, textiles, chemical fumes, asbestos, mines, and toxic gases are some irritants that lead to the development of chronic bronchitis in the long run. If your occupation is related to either of these, you might be at a risk.
Gastric reflux – If you are constantly suffering from heartburn and acid reflux, it irritates your throat and you are prone to developing bronchitis frequently.
Treatment of bronchitis
Bronchitis is treated simply with a pain reliever or a cough suppressant. The doctor might also advise you sitting in a steamed bathroom and sleeping with a humidifier in your bedroom. You must complete the course of medication with proper rest and drinking enough fluids.