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What Causes Bronchitis & How To Treat It

Is the cough keeping you awake the whole night? Are you feeling a wheezing sound in your chest? You could have bronchitis. Knowing the symptoms and treating it on time will help in managing bronchitis.

What Is Bronchitis?

It is an inflammation in the lining of bronchi, which carry air to and from the lungs. The bronchi walls produce mucus to trap dust and other particles.

What Causes Bronchitis?

The bacteria, virus and other particles irritate the bronchial walls when you contract cold and flu [1] . Your body starts fighting germs which let your bronchial tubes swell and make more mucus. This causes narrowing of the bronchial tubes, leading to difficulty in breathing and coughing.

Smoking, environmental pollution, chemicals in household products or tobacco smoke can also trigger bronchitis.

Types Of Bronchitis

1. Acute bronchitis - It is caused by viral or bacterial infection and is the most common type of bronchitis [2] . Common cold, sore throat and flu are the common causes of acute bronchitis. The symptoms of acute bronchitis last less than 3 weeks.

2. Chronic bronchitis - This is a serious type of bronchitis that lasts for three months in a year and for at least two years [3] . Smoking is the primary cause of chronic bronchitis.

Symptoms Of Bronchitis

Both acute and chronic bronchitis have similar symptoms which include the following:

  • Wheezing
  • Prolonged cough that contains mucus.
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Headache and body ache
  • Blocked nose and sinuses.
  • Low fever and chills
  • Chest congestion

When To See A Doctor

It is necessary to visit a doctor when a cough lasts for more than three weeks, continuous fever for more than three days, cough mucus containing strains of blood, chest pain and repeated episodes of bronchitis.

Diagnosis Of Bronchitis

The doctor will conduct a physical examination and ask about your symptoms. He or she will also ask about your medical history and whether you smoke or not. Some tests will be done to examine the severity of bronchitis. These tests are checking the oxygen levels in the blood, chest X-ray, lung function test, and blood tests.

Treatment of Bronchitis

There is no specific treatment for acute bronchitis, drinking plenty of water, resting and consuming healthy foods are enough. Chronic bronchitis [4] can't be cured, but it can be managed with the help of the following treatments.

  • Bronchodilators are medications which remove mucus and clears up the bronchial tubes.
  • Oxygen therapy is provided to improve oxygen intake during breathing difficulties.
  • Cough medicines are another treatment option for relieving cough.
  • Oxygen therapy and anti-inflammatory medicines can help decrease chronic inflammation.
  • Mucolytics are medicines that aid in thinning mucus in the airways which makes it easier to cough it out.

Home remedies to treat acute bronchitis

1. Garlic

A study shows the effectiveness of garlic in inhibiting the growth of infectious bronchitis virus [5] . Garlic contains a compound called allicin that has anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antibacterial and antiviral properties.

  • Consume three cloves of garlic daily.

2. Salt water gargle

Salt water gargle can ease sore throat and help in the breakdown of mucus in the throat.

  • Just dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water. Sip small amounts of water and gargle. Spit it out and repeat it several times a day.

3. Steam water inhalation

This home remedy works by loosening up the mucus and eliminating it from the body. Steam water inhalation relaxes the muscles and eases coughing.

  • Boil water in a bowl, place a towel over your head and lean over the bowl to inhale the steam. Breathe in the steam for at least 10 minutes.

4. Ginger

Ginger contains a compound called gingerol that has anti-inflammatory properties which are helpful against respiratory infections including bronchitis [6] .

  • You can either chew fresh ginger or have ginger tea.

5. Honey and lemon

Honey and lemon can ease throat irritations and reduce cough [7] . Honey contains antibacterial properties which aid in soothing irritated mucous membranes and lemon is used as an expectorant.

  • Boil a glass of water, squeeze the juice of half a lemon and mix it. Remove from the stove and add a teaspoon of honey and drink it. Do this thrice a day.

Risks And Complications Of Bronchitis

  • Weakened immune system increases the likelihood of cold and flu.
  • Smoking.
  • Inhaling toxic fumes.
  • Bronchitis can make you more susceptible to another respiratory tract infection.
  • Lungs can get infected resulting in pneumonia.
  • People with existing heart, kidney or liver disease.

Prevention Of Bronchitis

  • Quit smoking.
  • Wear a mask when outdoors as dust particles, pollution and smog cause more irritation [8] .
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Get vaccinated.
View Article References
  1. [1] Ishak, A., & Everard, M. L. (2017). Persistent and Recurrent Bacterial Bronchitis-A Paradigm Shift in Our Understanding of Chronic Respiratory Disease.Frontiers in pediatrics,5, 19.
  2. [2] Wark P. (2015). Bronchitis (acute).BMJ clinical evidence,2015, 1508.
  3. [3] Mejza, F., Gnatiuc, L., Buist, A. S., Vollmer, W. M., Lamprecht, B., Obaseki, D. O., Nastalek, P., Nizankowska-Mogilnicka, E., Burney, P., BOLD collaborators, BOLD study collaborators (2017). Prevalence and burden of chronic bronchitis symptoms: results from the BOLD study.The European respiratory journal,50(5), 1700621.
  4. [4] University of North Carolina Health Care. (2017, September 6). Chronic bronchitis: New insights could lead to first diagnostic test, better treatments: Study describes how airway dehydration makes mucus thick -- the hallmark of chronic bronchitis, the precursor to deadly COPD.ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 28, 2019 from
  5. [5] Shojai, T. M., Langeroudi, A. G., Karimi, V., Barin, A., & Sadri, N. (2016). The effect of Allium sativum (Garlic) extract on infectious bronchitis virus in specific pathogen free embryonic egg.Avicenna journal of phytomedicine,6(4), 458.
  6. [6] Podlogar, J. A., & Verspohl, E. J. (2012). Antiinflammatory Effects of Ginger and Some of its Components in Human Bronchial Epithelial (BEAS‐2B) Cells.Phytotherapy Research,26(3), 333-336.
  7. [7] World Health Organization. (2001).Cough and cold remedies for the treatment of acute respiratory infections in young children(No. WHO/FCH/CAH/01.02). Geneva: World Health Organization.
  8. [8] Salameh, P., Salame, J., Khayat, G., Akhdar, A., Ziadeh, C., Azizi, S., ... & Saadeh, D. (2012). Exposure to outdoor air pollution and chronic bronchitis in adults: a case-control study.Int J Occup Environ Med (The IJOEM),3(4 October).

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