Bronchitis is a breathing condition that is caused by swelling and inflammation in the tubes that carry air to the lungs. These tubes are called bronchi. Swelling in the bronchi typically causes difficulty breathing and coughing that brings up mucus from the lungs.
There are two types of bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis results from extended exposure to irritants such as smoking and is a long-term condition. Acute bronchitis is a short-term condition that often follows a cold or other infection. Bronchitis treatments vary depending on the type of bronchitis.
Treating Acute Bronchitis
Acute bronchitis is most often caused by a viral infection such as a cold or the flu. This type of bronchitis will usually resolve itself, so treatment focuses on relieving symptoms.
Because viruses are not affected by antibiotics, acute bronchitis is usually not treated with antibiotics. However, mucus that is green or yellow in color may indicate a bacterial infection that would respond to antibiotics. Let your health care provider know if you cough up green or yellow mucus.
Home treatments for bronchitis symptoms include:
• Pain relievers – acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can help reduce fever and muscle aches. Do not give aspirin to children without specific instructions from your doctor.
• Hydrate – Drink plenty of fluids to keep from becoming dehydrated.
• Humidifier – Using steam or a humidifier may help loosen mucus in the lungs and make breathing easier.
• Cough suppressants – Coughing can increase irritation in the linings of the bronchi. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications to control coughing can help.
Treating Chronic Bronchitis
Chronic bronchitis is one type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This type of bronchitis is most often caused by smoking or extended exposure to other lung irritants such as dust or fumes. There is no cure for COPD, including chronic bronchitis.
The first step to limit lung damage from chronic bronchitis is removing the irritant. So if you smoke, it is very important for the health of your lungs that you stop smoking. Other treatments for chronic bronchitis include:
• Inhalers – Bronchodilators such as albuterol or inhaled steroids can help reduce inflammation in the lungs.
• Anti-inflammatory – Medications such as Singulair can also help reduce inflammation.
• Oxygen – Extreme difficulty breathing can be eased using oxygen therapy at home.
People who have chronic bronchitis (COPD) or other lung conditions such as asthma may be at higher risk of complications from acute bronchitis. If you have other lung conditions, talk to your healthcare provider if you suspect you have acute bronchitis. You may need additional medications or supplemental oxygen to help with difficult breathing until you recover from acute bronchitis.
eMedicine Health. John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP. Web. November 20, 2011.
Medicine Net. Chronic Bronchitis. Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD. Web. November 20, 2011.
Medicine Net. Bronchitis. Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM. Web. November 20, 2011.
PubMed Health. Bronchitis. Web. November 20, 2011.
PubMed Health. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Web. November 20, 2011.
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. How Is Bronchitis Treated? Web. November 20, 2011.
Mayo Clinic. Reye’s syndrome. Web. November 20, 2011.
Reviewed November 23, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith