If you have a mucus-producing cough or a continued wheeze, then you may have bronchitis. Bronchitis occurs when our bronchial tubes—small airway tubes in our lungs—become inflamed. This inflammation causes the lining of the bronchial tubes to puff up and secrete mucus, effectively reducing the amount of air that can travel through the bronchial tubes. Your body responds by coughing, trying to dislodge any offending material (such as dust or cigarette smoke) and remove some of the mucus. Essentially, the cough is our bodies’ attempts to clear the bronchial tubes so we can get about the business of breathing. Since the bronchial tubes are partially blocked, there may also be wheezing on top of the cough. Other bronchitis symptoms include chest tightness, pain, or a low level fever.
Your Bronchitis Cough: Is It Acute or Chronic?
Bronchitis can be acute, meaning that it lasts a few days or weeks, or it can be chronic, in which case the couch can come and go for months or years. Regardless of whether it is acute or chronic, bronchitis limits the amount of oxygen we take in, so getting it is not fun, to say the least.
As bronchitis is simply an inflammation, there are a number of things that can cause it. Any particle that irritates your bronchial tubes can result in an immune response and the resulting inflammation (inflammation is just a localized immune response). Acute bronchitis usually follows a cold or the flu. You know that nagging cough you have after you get after being sick? That’s probably acute bronchitis. If the cough produces a yellow or green mucus, you likely have an infection of some sort. Both acute and chronic bronchitis can be caused by breathing in particulate matter—that is, dust, fumes or other environmental factors that result in an immune response. Repeated bouts of acute bronchitis can lead to chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis can vary by the time of the year and has varying degrees of severity.
How to Treat Your Bronchitis Cough
Stopping bronchitis may just be a matter of letting our immune systems do their jobs. In the case of a recent illness such as a cold or the flu, the cough should go away in less than a month. If there is a persistent, mucus-producing cough on most days for three months per year for multiple years, and there is an absence of a secondary cause for the cough, then this could be chronic bronchitis. While both acute and chronic bronchitis are unpleasant, chronic bronchitis is a serious medical disorder that should be treated by a physician.
Take Preventative Steps to Avoid Getting a Bronchitis Cough
The best way to avoid getting acute bronchitis is to stay away from environmental irritants and to prevent cold and fight flu infections. Most of this is common sense. For example, we shouldn’t be around cigarette smoke if we have bronchitis or are prone to it. We shouldn’t sit around a camp fire if we have a wheeze and a hacking cough. To avoid infection, wash your hands. We have to remember to cover our mouths when we have a cough. These may seem like simple measures, but making sure we keep ourselves healthy can save us—and the people around us—days or weeks of a hacking cough.