If you’re experiencing coughing and feelings of fatigue, the first illness that often comes to mind is the common cold. However, there may be more to your symptoms; cold and flu viruses, also known as bronchitis, can also be the cause of a chest cold. If you’ve recently suffered from the cold or flu and have developed a persistent cough, you may be suffering from bronchitis.
What Is Bronchitis?
Bronchitis is a condition in which the bronchial tubes (the airways in your lungs) become inflamed and cause coughing and wheezing, causing mucus to accumulate and making it difficult to breathe. There are two different types of bronchitis: acute and chronic.1 Both types of bronchitis are caused by different maladies, but both result in the same debilitating effects on the body.
Acute bronchitis can last anywhere from three days up to ten, although a cough may linger for weeks after the other symptoms have dissipated. A cold or flu virus that moves into the lower airways usually causes acute bronchitis. Viruses are responsible for between 85 and 95 percent of the cases of acute bronchitis in generally healthy adults. Bacteria causes the remainder of the cases. Acute bronchitis is contagious and you can get it from others.2
Chronic bronchitis is long-term inflammation of the bronchial tubes. It is considered a type of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). This type of bronchitis can last for months or even years, and if it goes away it often returns. Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of chronic bronchitis, although other environmental factors can cause it, such as excessive dust, air pollution or chemical inhalation.3 Because chronic bronchitis is not caused by a virus, it is not contagious.
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Chronic bronchitiscannott be treated in the same way that acute bronchitis can. Early diagnosis and behavioral changes such as quitting smoking can help ease the symptoms. However, the chances of the condition ever going away completely are very low.
Symptoms of Bronchitis
A cold or flu virus often causes acute bronchitis. You may experience a runny or stuffy nose, headache, achy muscles, sore throat or fever. When the infection moves down into the bronchial tubes, you may develop a dry cough that produces more phlegm over time. Symptoms of bronchitis include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or tightness
- Persistent, dry cough that develops more mucus over time
The main symptom to look out for is a persistent, phlegm-filled cough that can last for weeks.
Doctors usually diagnose bronchitis by conducting a physical exam and asking about your medical history. Chest x-rays are used to ensure that the illness is not pneumonia.
Chest Cold Remedies
Most cases of acute bronchitis go away on their own. You should see your doctor if you begin to cough up bloody mucus, your cough lasts longer than three weeks, you are experiencing extreme chest pain, or have a fever that lasts more than a few days.
Can Antibiotics Cure Bronchitis?
Acute bronchitis is most often caused by a viral infection, which means that it cannot be treated by antibiotics. Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections. Doctors can run tests to determine whether your bronchitis is caused by a viral or bacterial infection.
Although both viruses and bacteria make you ill, they affect the body in different ways. Bacteria are single-celled living organisms that are able to reproduce on their own. They attack the cells of the body from the outside. Viruses are much smaller than bacteria, are not alive, and affect cells of the body from the inside. They are not able to reproduce on their own; they rely on our cells to replicate themselves. Antibiotics are able to kill off bacteria and stop their reproduction, but they have no effect on viruses.
It may seem like a good idea to take antibiotics “just in case”. However, taking antibiotics when you don’t need them can lead to more illnesses in the long run. Overuse of antibiotics can actually create strains of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, making the treatment ineffective when you really need it. 4
Treatment for Acute Bronchitis
Doctors recommend plenty of rest and lots of fluids if your bronchitis isn’t caused by a bacterial infection. If you have a fever, they may recommend an over-the-counter antipyretic medication. Cough drops can help soothe a dry cough. An expectorant treats phlegm-filled coughs well.
If you’re one of the many people that turn to their kitchen cabinets rather than the local pharmacy in times of sickness, there are plenty of natural remedies to help ease your symptoms.
One of the best natural remedies for the cold, flu, or bronchitis is a warm mug of herbal tea. Mullein and slippery elm are both excellent natural expectorants that can help loosen mucus and make breathing easier. Eucalyptus, licorice root, thyme, and peppermint are commonly used in teas to help support the respiratory system. A classic herbal remedy for respiratory illnesses is a warm mug of honey, lemon, and ginger. Experiment with different combinations of herbs until you find one that works for you!
Additionally, diffusing essential oils throughout your home, breathing them in through steam inhalation or adding them to a homemade vapor rub can do wonders to ease your symptoms. You can also breathe in essential oils directly from the bottle, add them to a relaxing massage oil or add a few drops to a warm bath. Try using lemon or tea tree essential oil to naturally disinfect your home, eucalyptus to ease congestion, or thyme to reduce inflammation. Lavender can help ease stress and help you get the rest you need to recover, and peppermint can help reduce fevers.
How To Prevent Illness
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the first step in making sure you don’t get sick. If you aren’t living a healthy lifestyle, you can weaken your immune system and put yourself at risk for contracting an illness.
Chronic stress is linked to a suppressed immune system. It’s important to take a few minutes out of every day to reduce your levels of stress and anxiety. This can be as simple as focusing on your breathing for 10 minutes every morning and 10 minutes every evening. Diffusing frankincense essential oil throughout your home can help clear your mind, ease feelings of stress and put you in the right head space to meditate.
A lack of sleep can leave you more susceptible to illness, so you should try to get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep a night. If you suffer from insomnia or have trouble staying asleep throughout the night, try diffusing roman chamomile essential oil throughout your room before going to bed.
The same viruses that cause the flu and the common cold also cause acute bronchitis. Therefore, it’s important to take the same preventative measures. Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly is especially important during the colder months when these viruses are more prevalent. You should stay clear of anyone who seems to be exhibiting symptoms of the cold or flu. Be wary of touching your face after touching communal surfaces.
Bronchitis may seem like yet another illness to worry about during the winter months, but with proper precautions, you can keep yourself healthy throughout the season! By reducing stress, getting enough sleep, practicing proper hygiene and boosting your immune system with therapeutic essential oils like MONQ’s Zen Blend, you can keep bronchitis and other illnesses at bay.
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