It may have started with a cough and a sneeze, but now your chest is heavy and your cold has evolved into bronchitis. What should you do? Does this warrant a doctor’s visit? And, more importantly, can you treat it at home?
According to the American Lung Association, acute bronchitis is the inflammation of the lower respiratory tract, more specifically the bronchial tubes in the lungs. Generally, bronchitis lasts between 3 to 10 days. Bronchitis can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection, or by the effects of irritants, such as smoking or pollution.
Symptoms consist of:
- Dry cough, or wet cough with mucus or phlegm (green and yellow)
- Fevers and night sweats
- Headaches and congestion
- Wheezing or chest tightness
Due to the fact that acute bronchitis is caused by a viral infection, antibiotics are usually unnecessary. However, your doctor can prescribe cough suppressants (dry cough) and expectorants (wet cough)- though you can also purchase these medicines over the counter at your pharmacy. If breathing becomes difficult, an inhaler or nebulizer can be used to help open airways and help you breathe with less strain. Aspirin and acetaminophen help alleviate fever and soreness. You should contact your doctor if you have a fever over 101F or have trouble breathing.
If a doctor’s visit isn’t needed treatment can begin at home. First and foremost, it is important that you allow your body rest. Limit activities that cause you to breathe hard and give your chest and lungs a break. Avoid smoking, heavy pollen, or any other factors that can further irritate your lungs.
Also, be sure to push fluids. Staying hydrated is essential to the healing process. As our bodies become dehydrated respiratory secretions thicken and are more difficult to expel from the body. The expulsion of the mucus and phlegm in your airways will help you heal faster. Eat regular, nutritious meals to help keep your energy up and to give your immune system a boost. It is important you give your body the resources it needs to heal itself; proper hydration and refueling are essential to proper body function.
If interested in home remedies there are many different options to consider. The moisture from a hot shower can help loosen mucus and make it easier to cough out. Warm tea is soothing on a sore throat, and with a touch of ginger or honey for anti-viral properties you can do double duty feeling better while hydrating.
Eucalyptus or tea tree oil can be combined with hot water to make steam that can be inhaled to help lessen the effects of coughing. Oils can also be used with a humidifier to help moisten the air. For soothing a sore throat try gargling salt water or sucking on a cough drop. Experiment with each of these and see which best works for you.
Recovering from respiratory infections takes time. Luckily, bronchitis has a short lifespan. While it’s no fun to be cooped up, enjoy the rest, kick back and catch up on some Netflix.