Bronchitis is generally divided into two main types: acute and chronic. Acute bronchitis attacks quickly with severe symptoms that are comparatively short-lived. Acute bronchitis usually lasts for a few weeks at most. The condition is mostly caused by viral attack of the bronchi. The symptoms of chronic bronchitis may be mild or severe but they last longer than those of acute cases. Chronic bronchitis persists from several months in some patients to several years others. Chronic bronchitis is frequently reported in people who have along history of smoking, both active and passive. Also, chronic bronchitis invites other respiratory infections like pneumonia.
The most characteristic symptoms of bronchitis are inflammation of the bronchi and a dry, irritating cough. Other symptoms, appearing somewhat later, include feelings of illness, chills, headache, mild fever, difficulty in breathing, and audible breathing (coming with a hissing or whistling sound).
Besides viruses, several factors are help responsible for causing bronchitis, especially the non-infectious kind of bronchitis. Smoking is the leading cause of these while continued exposure to fumes and dust are also known to induce bronchitis. In some people, bronchitis may result from already existing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in which condition acidic fluids from the stomach flow back into the esophagus and cause a burning sensation (heartburn) in the chest.
Diagnosis of bronchitis involves physical examination of the chest area, including listening to the chest with a stethoscope. A chest x-ray and breathing test are usually suggested to confirm the occurrence of bronchitis. The doctor also records the patient’s medical history before suggesting any plan of treatment.
Since bronchitis is mostly a viral problem, its treatment does not involve the prescription of antibiotics: antibiotics are ineffective against viruses. The doctor would normally advise to control the symptoms by taking plenty of rest and liquids so as to boost the immunity against the viral activity. Patients may be prescribed an anti-cough medication to control cough and irritation of the bronchial lining. For non-infectious bronchitis, patients are advised to stay away from dust, fumes, and other triggers that cause inflammation of the bronchi.
Exposure to smoke is strictly prohibited for patients of bronchitis. Wearing a face-mask is recommended for workers who have to deal with fumes and other pollutants during work. It is also important that patients of infectious bronchitis do not come in close physical contact with other people as sneezing can carry the viruses around.