Definition of Bronchitis, Causes and Symptoms – Bronchitis is an irritation or inflammation in the walls of the bronchial tubes, which are the pipes that channel air from the throat to the lungs. Bronchitis can last for days, weeks or even months.
Bronchitis is usually characterized by a cough, which is sometimes accompanied by the discharge of phlegm or mucus due to irritation of the bronchial walls. Bronchitis that worsens and is not treated risks causing pneumonia or bronchopneumonia, which is characterized by chest pain, fever, and decreased consciousness.
Causes of Bronchitis
Bronchitis occurs when the bronchi become inflamed. This condition causes the airways to narrow and fill with mucus. The mucus or phlegm collects due to the immune system’s response to catch infectious and non-infectious substances that cause bronchitis.
Mucus that collects in the bronchi will eventually block the airway, causing symptoms of shortness of breath. As a result, coughing will occur as a response of the patient’s body to remove mucus in the airway.
Bronchitis is divided into acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis, as explained below:
1. Acute bronchitis
Acute bronchitis generally lasts for 10-14 days. However, people with acute bronchitis can experience coughing for up to 3 weeks. Acute bronchitis can occur in anyone, but is more common in children under 5 years of age.
Acute bronchitis is generally caused by an infection in the bronchi. This infection is most commonly caused by viruses that cause acute respiratory infections (ARI), such as Rhinovirus. Acute bronchitis occurs when the ARI is not cured and spreads to the bronchi.
2. Chronic bronchitis
Chronic bronchitis usually lasts for 3 months or occurs for several times in 2 years. Chronic bronchitis is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is more common in adults aged 40 years and above.
Chronic bronchitis is caused by long-term inflammation in the bronchi due to exposure to chemicals or cigarette smoke. The condition triggers an inflammatory reaction, which is characterized by mucus production in the bronchial walls.
A person who has a smoking habit will experience a persistent inflammatory reaction. This can cause the bronchi to narrow and harden.
Bronchitis Risk Factors
Several factors can increase a person’s risk of suffering from bronchitis, namely:
- Smoking or frequent exposure to cigarette smoke (secondhand smoke)
- Being under 5 years old or over 40 years old
- Not getting the influenza or pneumonia vaccine
- Frequent exposure to harmful substances, such as dust, ammonia, or chlorine
- Have a weak immune system, for example due to autoimmune disease or cancer
Symptoms and Causes of Bronchitis
A common symptom of bronchitis is coughing, which may be accompanied by fever, shortness of breath and sore throat. In severe cases, the cough may cause chest pain or loss of consciousness.
The causes of bronchitis are divided into two, namely infection and non-infection. Bronchitis due to infection can come from viruses or bacteria. Non-infectious causes of bronchitis include smoking and exposure to dust or pollution.
In addition, there are several factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing bronchitis, including a weak immune system and frequent exposure to harmful substances, such as ammonia.
Bronchitis Treatment and Prevention
The treatment of bronchitis is by taking cough medicine with phlegm. In addition, patients are also advised to drink plenty of water and get enough rest to help the recovery process.
Bronchitis can be prevented by not smoking, always washing your hands after every activity, and always wearing a mask to avoid exposure to harmful compounds.
The most common symptom of bronchitis is coughing. The cough can be either dry or with phlegm. When coughing up phlegm, the phlegm may be white, yellow or green in color.
In addition to coughing, people with bronchitis can also feel other symptoms, such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Sore throat
- Breath sounds
- Chest pain when coughing
Symptoms other than coughing usually subside within a week, but the cough may persist for several weeks or even months afterward.
When to See a Doctor
Generally, the symptoms of acute bronchitis only last for a few weeks. Therefore, see a doctor if you experience serious symptoms such as:
- Cough lasts more than 3 weeks
- Coughing interferes with sleep
- Coughing up blood or dark-colored sputum
- Fever for more than 3 days with a temperature of 38°C or more
- There is an underlying disease, such as asthma, heart failure, or emphysema
- Cough sounds harsh and causes difficulty speaking
- Coughing causes chest pain
- Unexplained weight loss
In general, the above complaints can also be a sign of other conditions, such as asthma, heart problems, cancer, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Therefore, check with your doctor to confirm your condition and determine the appropriate treatment method.