Acute bronchitis is an infection of the bronchial tree, which is a network made up of the tubes that carry air to and from the lungs. When these tubes get infected, they swell and mucus forms. This mucus makes it hard to breathe and must be removed; coughing and wheezing are the result.
Acute bronchitis is almost always caused by viruses that attack the lining of the bronchial tree and cause infection. As your body fights back against these viruses, more swelling occurs and more mucus is made. It takes time for your body to kill the viruses and heal the damage to your bronchial tubes.
In most cases, the same viruses that cause colds cause acute bronchitis. Research has shown that bacterial infection is much less common in bronchitis than previously thought. Very rarely, an infection caused by a fungus can lead to acute bronchitis. The viruses that cause acute bronchitis are sprayed into the air or onto people's hands when they cough. You can get acute bronchitis if you breathe in those viruses or transfer them from a contaminated hand to your mouth.
Sometimes the cough from acute bronchitis lasts for several weeks or months, generally because the bronchial tree is taking a long time to heal. However, a cough that doesn't go away may be a sign of another problem, such as asthma or pneumonia.
Because acute bronchitis is usually caused by viruses, antibiotics (medicines that kill bacteria) usually do not help. Even if you cough up mucus that is colored or thick, antibiotics probably won't help you get better any faster.
For some people with acute bronchitis, doctors prescribe medicines that are usually used to treat asthma. These medicines can help open the bronchial tubes and clear out mucus. They are usually given with an inhaler. An inhaler sprays the medicine right into the bronchial tree.
Most cases of acute bronchitis will go away on their own after a few days.
You should call your doctor if:
If you smoke or are around damaging fumes (such as those in certain kinds of factories), you are more likely to get acute bronchitis and to have it longer because your bronchial tree is already damaged.
Ephedra (the active ingredient in Ma Huang) and pseudoephedrine have been used with clinical success in Chinese studies. [Pharmacology and Applications of Chinese Materia Medica, Vol 2, pp.1119-24, World Scientific Publishing.]. Dosage: 500-1,000mg of the crude herb tid, or ephedrine 15-25mg tid.
Comfrey has been used with benefit in cases of bronchitis and irritable cough, where it will soothe the irritation and promote expectoration.
Due to its inhibition of the immune system, sugar consumption should be stopped until all bronchitis symptoms have ceased.
Ensuring plenty of fluids prevents the mucus thickening associated with dehydration and eases mucus removal in patients with bronchitis.
Digestive pancreatic enzymes have been used to hasten the recovery process in both acute and chronic bronchitis. [ Enzymtherapie – grundlagen und anwendungsmoglichkeiten. Naturund Ganzheitsmedizin 3, 1991.]
If you smoke, the best defense against acute bronchitis is to quit. Smoking damages your bronchial tree, making it easier for viruses to cause infection and slowing down the healing process. The bronchial tree will heal faster if you cut down on the number of cigarettes or, better still, stop smoking altogether.
One good way to avoid getting acute bronchitis is to wash your hands often to get rid of any viruses.
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