Coughing up yellow and green mucus, fatigue, soreness in the chest: these are the symptoms of bronchitis. The acute form of bronchitis is usually a chest cold gone bad. The bronchial tubes in the lungs become inflamed which produces mucus and creates a cough. Other signs of bronchitis include a mild headache, body aches, a low-grade fever, watery eyes and a sore throat. Most of these symptoms will last up to two miserable weeks, but the cough might linger for up to 8 weeks.
The same type of viruses that cause colds often causes acute bronchitis. Antibiotics are rarely needed since a virus causes bronchitis and antibiotics do not kill infections caused by viruses. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed can be harmful. Learn more about antibiotic resistance.
Bronchiolitis is a little different and is an inflammation of the small passages in the lungs (bronchioles). The disease usually affects children under the age of 2, with a peak age of 3 to 6 months. At first symptoms may resemble the symptoms of a common cold with a runny nose and slight fever for a few days. Children typically begin to cough and breathe fast and wheeze for another 2-3 days. Respiratory syncytial virus(RSV) is the most common cause. This virus is transmitted by direct contact with nasal fluids, or airborne droplets. RSV generally causes only mild symptoms in an adult, but it can be very serious in an infant. Again antibiotics are not recommended for this condition and the illness will run its course in about a week.
How do you get symptom relief while you are waiting for these viral infections to pass? For upper respiratory infections such as colds, bronchitis, and bronchiolitis follow these home remedies:
- Get plenty of rest
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Use a humidifier to help keep passages from drying out
- Avoid smoking, second-hand smoke and other pollutants
- Take over the counter medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen to relieve pain or fever.
Remember that over the counter medicines such as pain relievers, decongestants and saline nasal sprays only relieve your symptoms, but they do not shorten the course of the illness. Remember to always use over the counter products as directed.
A more serious condition is chronic bronchitis. This is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease(COPD). Chronic bronchitis is more common with cigarette smokers and lasts a long time. People with chronic bronchitis experience a productive cough with mucus for 3 months out of 12 for over 2 consecutive years. This condition may never resolve completely.
Another condition that has similar symptoms to bronchitis is pneumonia. Pneumonia can be very serious and appropriate medical treatment should be consulted if pneumonia is suspected. Pneumonia symptoms include a high fever (as opposed to no or a low fever in cases of bronchitis), chills, shaking and shortness of breath/difficulty breathing.
If you or your child suffers from a cold that moves into your chest and lingers, it might be bronchitis or bronchiolitis. If you start to experience a high fever, shortness of breath, and extreme discomfort you might have a more serious condition of pneumonia. Keep a close eye on any respiratory viral infections and follow the symptom relief protocols above for comfort.