Ever had that experience when it felt, very hard to breathe? Chest filled with mucus and you can feel a burning sensation there, just like a spreading fire.
Many a time, these symptoms can occur with common cold, flu etc.
If you have ever experienced symptoms like these, there’s a very good chance you had something that we call “bronchitis”.
In the following article, we are going to understand what is bronchitis and also go through some of its causes as well as its symptoms.
What is bronchitis?
Simply put, bronchitis is the condition in which the inner line of your bronchial tubes (which is responsible for the exchange of airflow in your lungs) is inflamed and irritated. This is also accompanied by a cough (with mucus/phlegm) and sometimes a sore throat.
The mucus’s colors can vary from being yellow, green, brown and even red in serious cases.
Bronchitis is mainly classified into two types:
Acute Bronchitis: This type of bronchitis is very common and is usually accompanied by a common cold or flu. The symptoms in the patient usually last from a few days to a couple of weeks (usually 7 – 12 days). But it can take a while to drain the last of that hacking cough completely.
Chronic Bronchitis: This type of bronchitis is more serious and is also a condition included in COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). When a person is facing the symptoms of bronchitis on a regular and returning basis, the person is probably suffering through Chronic Bronchitis.
This type of bronchitis lasts a lot longer (more than 3 months at least) and will require medical attention.
Why does bronchitis occur?
The bronchi are the main air passage or airways of the lungs. This is responsible for the air exchange happening in the lungs.
Bronchi which are the bigger air passage leads to many smaller air passages called bronchioles and are present on either side of the lungs divided by the trachea.
Now, the walls of bronchi or the lining of the bronchi secrete a fluid called mucus or as we call it “phlegm”. This can be found in many different colors. Green, yellow, grayish, brown or even red if it comes with contact with blood as we discussed earlier.
The purpose of the mucus secretion is to simply make the tiny particles that flow through the air, stick to the bronchi’s lining and trap them – Particles that can cause irritation.
And also, so that the air passages stay clear and not become jammed. Thus, ensuring proper functioning.
But (in acute bronchitis) when a person comes in contact with harmful viruses and gets a cold or flu. It can cause infection in the bronchi’s lining. This will irritate it as well as make it inflamed. Thus, to cope with this the lining secretes more and more mucus. This can then block the air passages and cause discomfort.
And because of the large amount of mucus secretion, the patient will also have a cough bringing up that mucus.
In short: an irritant irritates the lining of bronchi, which makes it inflamed and release a large amount of mucus. Thus creating discomfort for the patient.
Read also 8 Best Home Remedies for Bronchitis.
What causes it?
As we have already found out that bronchitis is caused by an irritant.
Generally, a virus or bacteria causes an infection in the lining of bronchi. Causing it to release mucus and be inflamed.
These viruses are very contagious and spread like the hay fever. Most of the times the viruses that cause common cold or flu is responsible for bronchitis as well.
These viruses are suspended through the tiny particles/droplets present in the air when a person sneezes or coughs. And lands on stationery items like a desk, chair, door handles etc. Then it spreads through physical contact. That is the reason for the spreading of this virus predominantly in public places.
And then after the exchange of virus takes place, the virus can then enter the bronchi via the nose. Either from the victim’s placing its hand near its nose or also via direct inhalation.
Apart from the virus factor, bronchi can also be caused by breathing in unwanted particles/irritants.
Smokes, smog, chemicals, tobacco smoke can irritate the bronchi’s lining and also inflame it.
Out of all smoking is predominantly the cause of chronic (long-term) bronchitis in many patients. And it includes direct and also indirect smoking.
Exposure to a harmful occurrence or substance like chlorine, strong acids, ammonia, dust (grain dust). Can also lead to what sometimes is referred to as “occupational bronchitis”, which usually goes away after the phenomenon is over.
There are two types of bronchitis, acute and chronic. And the symptoms are different for different types.
But mainly bronchitis will carry a hacking cough with it. Plus the patient may bring up mucus/phlegm along with its cough.
Common symptoms of bronchitis are:
- a headache
- a runny nose (due to the excessive mucus, and nose can also be blocked if the mucus hardens up)
- Body pain
- a sore throat
- Feeling of tiredness
Along with these, you might feel some burning sensation in your chest area because of the inflammation. And the coughing can last for a couple of weeks even after the problem is solved. Moreover, excessive coughing can lead to a burned throat as well as a sore chest.
A Chronic Bronchitis patient will usually experience the symptoms below:
- shortness of breath (especially while doing tasks like running, exercising etc)
- the infections come back and are frequent
- symptoms of common bronchitis for a long period (i.e. coughing with phlegm)
Apart from the above symptoms if you’re feeling these then you will be requiring urgent medical attention
- Constant fever for more than 3 days
- Very severe cough
- Visible blood in the phlegm
- Rapid breathing
Summary: Bronchitis is a condition in which the lining of bronchi releases excessive mucus due to some irritant.
It is often accompanied by a common cold or flu. The patient suffering will be having a cough which will bring up phlegm with it.
It has mainly two types – Acute and chronic.
Acute is not too serious can be treated at home with rest and continuous fluids. Although chronic bronchitis is more serious and will need medical attention.