Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which is the connection for the air between the trachea and the lungs. The inflammation makes breathing more difficult, because the lining of the bronchial tubes become swollen and produces a large amount of mucus. These factors also create a deep cough. For most people, bronchitis can last from 2 to 3 weeks and then go away. The cough, however, can last a bit longer. Bronchitis happens most commonly during the fall and winter, mainly because it often appears after a cold or the flu. A virus most frequently causes bronchitis, therefore it is contagious and antibiotics are not prescribed. It is also important to keep in mind that bronchitis can also be a sign of asthma and that bronchitis can become worse and turn into pneumonia.
The symptoms of bronchitis are a deep cough, which is often worse when lying down or when the air outside is cold and dry. The expectorations can be clear, yellow, or green. Sometimes there can also be a general unwell feeling with shivering, tiredness, loss of appetite, headaches, and physical soreness. Often there is chest pain and a feeling that the lungs are tight, which can create a state of shortened breathing. Even if bronchitis generally heals itself within 2 to 3 weeks, it is a good idea to consult a doctor, especially if there are other symptoms such as a strong and sustained fever, difficulty breathing or choking when lying down, blood in the expectoration, a strong pain in the chest, and/or a general feeling of tiredness that gets worse over time.
Children and the elderly are the most at risk of having bronchitis. Anyone with a weakened immune system by chronic stress or another disease is equally at risk. People with asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or heart problems should also take precautions.
The best prevention is to not smoke. Also be careful of the quality of the air you breathe, whether from second-hand smoke, wood-fire stoves, or smog in the air. It is a good idea to reinforce your immune system with rest, physical exercise, and good food.
The best way to prevent colds and the flu is to wash your hands frequently, touch you face as infrequently as possible, and stay away from confined spaces where someone is sick.
For a nocturnal cough, it is best to use a humidifier in the bedroom and to keep the level of humidity in the air around 30 to 50%. It is also important to drink at least 8 cups of water and hot liquids per day. Taking a hot bath can also help. Cough syrups are actually not recommended for bronchitis and never for children, as the cough helps to get rid of the mucus and the virus. If sleeping is too disturbed however, a cough medicine can be useful in bringing relief.