Bronchitis (cont.)

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What are the risk factors for acute bronchitis?

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Bronchitis describes inflammation of the bronchial tubes. Smoking is a key risk factor for developing acute bronchitis. Any other illnesses that predispose to similar inflammation also increase that risk (for example, asthma patients and patients allergic to airborne chemicals).

What are the symptoms of acute bronchitis?

Inflammation of the bronchial tubes narrows the inside opening of the bronchial tubes. Narrowing of the bronchial tubes result in increased resistance, this increase makes it more difficult for air to move to and from the lungs. This can cause wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. The cough may consist of sputum due to the secretions from the inflamed cells that line the bronchi. By coughing, the body attempts to expel secretions that clog the bronchial tubes. If these secretions contain certain inflammatory cells, discoloration of the mucus may result often in a green or yellow color. Sometimes the severity of the inflammation may result in some bleeding.

As with any other infection, there may be associated fever, chills, aches, soreness and the general sensation of feeling poorly or malaise.

When does a cold become acute bronchitis?

Anatomically, the larynx divides the upper and lower airways. Colds tend to affect the mouth, throat, and nasal passages while bronchitis describes specific inflammation of the bronchial tubes. The two illnesses can exist at the same time and may be caused by the same virus infection. A cold does not necessarily lead to bronchitis.

How is acute bronchitis diagnosed?

Acute bronchitis is usually diagnosed through patient history and physical examination.

Patient history?

The health care practitioner may ask the following questions about the symptoms:

  1. What symptoms exist?
  2. When did they start?
  3. Is there a related fever?
  4. Is sputum being brought up by coughing?
  5. Is the sputum or color-tinted?
  6. Is there any blood tinge?
  7. Does the person smoke?
  8. Is there a history of asthma or COPD?
  9. Does the patient take any medications or inhalers that are used to treat underlying illnesses?
  10. What has the patient done to treat the symptoms?
  11. Were these measures successful?

Physical examination

The health care practitioner may examine of the patient's upper airways to look for signs of ear, nose, or throat infection including redness of the tympanic membranes (ear drums), runny nose, and post nasal drip. Redness of the throat or swelling and pus on the tonsils can help distinguish common cold,tonsillitis, and acute bronchitis symptoms. The neck may be palpated or felt to check for swollen lymph nodes. Listening to the lungs may reveal decreased air entry and wheezing.

A chest X-ray may be considered by the health care practitioner if there is a concern that a pneumonia or infection of lung tissue is present.

Blood tests are usually not helpful; occasionally, cultures of sputum are done if a bacterial pathogen is suspected.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/24/2014

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Bronchitis - Length Symptoms Lasted Question: How long did the symptoms of your bronchitis last? Was there anything in particular that helped with pain/symptom relief?
Bronchitis - Treatments Question: What treatment was effective for your bronchitis?
Acute Bronchitis - Risk Factors Question: Do you have any of the risk factors for acute bronchitis? If so, what are they?
Acute Bronchitis - Home Remedies Question: What home remedies have you found effective in treating your acute bronchitis?
Acute Bronchitis - Experience Question: Please describe your experience with acute bronchitis.