Bronchitis is a respiratory condition in which the lining of the bronchial tubes, which are the air passages that carry air to the lungs, becomes inflamed and irritated. This can cause coughing, chest discomfort, and difficulty breathing.
Bronchitis can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection, exposure to irritants such as tobacco smoke or air pollution, or as a result of a pre-existing respiratory condition such as asthma. Symptoms of bronchitis can include:
- Coughing, which may produce mucus
- Chest discomfort or pain
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
- Sore throat
- Fever and chills (if the bronchitis is caused by a bacterial infection)
Treatment for bronchitis depends on the underlying cause and the severity of the symptoms. In most cases, bronchitis will resolve on its own within a few days to a couple of weeks. However, if symptoms persist or are severe, treatment may be necessary. Treatment options may include:
- Over-the-counter cough suppressants or expectorants to help relieve coughing and loosen mucus
- Pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to relieve chest discomfort or fever
- Inhalers or other medications to relieve bronchospasms (if the bronchitis is caused by asthma)
- Antibiotics, if the infection is caused by bacteria (although antibiotics are not effective against viral infections)
In addition to these treatments, there are several self-care measures that can help to relieve symptoms of bronchitis, such as getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated, using a humidifier or taking hot showers to help relieve coughing and congestion, and avoiding irritants such as tobacco smoke or air pollution. If symptoms are severe or persist for more than a couple of weeks, it is important to see a healthcare provider for further evaluation and treatment.