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Bronchitis: Types, Causes and Home Treatment

Bronchitis is the inflammation, swelling, or infection of the bronchial tubes that carry air to and from the lungs. These air passages branch off on either side of your windpipe (trachea) into smaller airways, known as bronchioles, through which air is passed to and expelled from the lungs.

The walls of the bronchial airways secrete mucus that serves the function of trapping the incoming dust and other irritants that could otherwise aggravate and disrupt your normal respiratory functioning.

Unlike the common cold or flu, the nagging cough induced by a case of bronchitis tends to stick around for longer than the expected couple of weeks if not attended to properly. This condition can stem from an infection or the inhalation of irritants, which can irritate the bronchial lining and cause it to produce more mucus than usual. Coughing is your body’s way to rid the respiratory tract of this excessive mucus. Moreover, the resultant swelling causes the air passages to become constricted, making it difficult to breathe.

Bronchitis can be described as being either:

Symptoms of Bronchitis

Symptoms associated with bronchitis include:

The symptoms of acute bronchitis are usually more severe than those of its chronic counterpart and last for 3–10 days. However, the cough that starts off with some degree of mucus expulsion can progressively turn into a dry, hacking cough, which persists for several weeks. As a result of the continual coughing, your chest and stomach muscles tend to become sore.

As for chronic bronchitis, you will have to bear with a stubborn cough accompanied by clear, yellow, white, or green phlegm. The condition tends to worsen two or more times every year, particularly during the colder months.

Other less commonly reported symptoms include:

Causes of Bronchitis

Both viral and bacterial pathogens can be held culpable for a case of bronchitis infection, especially if it’s acute bronchitis. However, viruses that cause the common cold or flu are the most usual suspects.

You can contract this infection by inhaling the air containing tiny virus-containing airborne droplets that come out of the nose and mouth of an infected person when he/she coughs or sneezes in your vicinity.

Moreover, you can also pick up the bug by coming in with contaminated surfaces and items at home and in public places, such as door handles and keyboards. The usual mode of transmission is through the hands that touch a virus-ridden object and are subsequently placed near the nose or mouth, through which the virus makes its way into your system.

Breathing In Irritant Substances

If you live or frequently travel to places with toxic levels of air pollution, you are at an increased risk of contracting this disease. Inhaling irritant substances, such as smog, chemicals in household products, and tobacco smoke, can wreak havoc on your respiratory system and trigger this condition. Cigarette smoking has emerged as the top culprit for chronic bronchitis, not just for active smokers but also for people who passively inhale secondhand cigarette smoke.

Occupational Exposure

Frequent or long-term exposure to chemical fumes, dust, and other such toxins at your workplace can be hazardous to your lungs and can give rise to bronchitis and other forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Unless the pulmonary damage has not reached an incurable stage, the symptoms of this type of “occupational bronchitis” tend to subside once you are no longer exposed to the irritant substance. Some of the standard occupational irritants include:

Risk Factors

People who are increasingly predisposed to developing this condition include:

Backention

Complications

When to See a Doctor

At the outset, bronchitis can often be mistaken for a garden-variety viral infection such as the cold or the flu. However, if your cough shows no sign of subsiding or the symptoms are more debilitating than a regular case of sniffles and cold, you’re probably in the throes of a bronchitis infection.

Managing bronchitis generally hinges on adequate self-care, which entails giving your body a break, through optimum rest, plenty of fluids, and a course of anti-inflammatory medication. However, if you experience the following warning signs, a visit to the doctor should be in order:

People suffering from bronchitis often try over-the-counter medications to manage the symptoms. There are also many simple, natural home remedies that can provide relief.

Treating Bronchitis Naturally

Here are the top 10 home remedies for bronchitis.

1. Take Ginger

Ginger, often used for treating the common cold, can also help with bronchitis. The anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties present in ginger help relieve irritated, inflamed, or swollen bronchial tubes.

A 2012 study published in Phytotherapy Research suggests that distinct ginger compounds could be used as anti-inflammatory drugs for managing respiratory infections.

2. Try Garlic

Due to its antibiotic and antiviral properties, garlic is highly beneficial for the treatment of bronchitis, especially acute bronchitis.

A 2016 study reports that garlic effectively inhibited the growth of infectious bronchitis virus. The research suggests that garlic can be used as a natural remedy for bronchitis.

  1. Peel three garlic cloves and chop them.
  2. Put them in 1 glass of milk and boil.
  3. Drink this milk at night before going to bed.

3. Drink Turmeric Milk

The anti-inflammatory property of turmeric is useful for treating the cough associated with bronchitis.

Follow this remedy to expectorate the excess mucus and get speedy relief from bronchitis-related congestion.

  1. Add 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder to 1 glass of milk.
  2. Boil it.
  3. Drink this milk two or three times a day. For faster results, take the milk on an empty stomach.
Note: This remedy is not suitable for people who have gallbladder stones, hyperacidity, stomach ulcers, or obstructive jaundice.

4. Inhale/Rub Eucalyptus Oil

Steam therapy is a very effective remedy for bronchitis. Using eucalyptus oil in the steam therapy will soften the mucus in the obstructed airways, and its antibacterial properties will help in the healing process.

5. Gargle with Salt Water

Gargling with salt water several times a day is a great way to treat various symptoms of bronchitis. Simply add 1 teaspoon of salt to 1 glass of warm water and gargle with it.

Be sure to use the exact amount of salt, as too much salt can cause a burning sensation in the throat and too little will not be as effective. You can gargle with salt water as often as you need.

There are two benefits of this remedy. First, it will soothe the inflammation in the throat, and second, it will cut through some of the mucus that’s irritating the throat.

6. Take Honey

Honey is a natural way to deal with a cough brought on by a case of bronchitis. A single dose of honey reduces mucus secretion and the cough episodes, especially in children. The antiviral and antibacterial properties present in honey help soothe the throat. Additionally, honey boosts your immune system.

7. Expel the Mucus with Onion

The expectorant effect of onions helps dissolve thick mucus, thereby providing relief from bronchitis. Furthermore, onion juice prevents further mucus buildup.

Note: Consuming large quantities of onion can lead to stomach distress and gastrointestinal irritation that may result in nausea and diarrhea. It may also cause thirst, amnesia, and condensate sputum. Lemons, however, can help diminish the onion-induced foul breath to a significant degree.

8. Try an Epsom Salt Bath

An Epsom salt bath can give relief from bronchitis symptoms, especially when suffering from acute bronchitis.

  1. To prepare the bath, add 1 or 2 cups of Epsom salt to warm bath water.
  2. When the Epsom salt is fully dissolved, immerse yourself in the bath for half an hour.
  3. If you have chronic bronchitis, do this twice a week. For acute bronchitis, do this every night or every other night.

9. Relieve the Congestion with Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds have medicinal properties that can treat bronchitis and help relieve chest pain associated with it.

10. Drink Plenty of Water

When suffering from bronchitis, it is recommended to keep your body well hydrated and to maintain a productive cough by drinking water and clear liquids.

So, drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water daily. You can also drink fruit juices and vegetable juices. In the morning, you can have a glass of water mixed with the juice squeezed from half a lemon and a little honey.

Do not drink caffeine or alcohol, which can lead to loss of extra fluid, thereby making the mucus tougher to dislodge.

If your symptoms get worse in spite of trying these remedies, then visit a doctor without delay.

Resources:

  1. healthdirect. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/bronchitis. Published December 2017.
  2. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/bronchitis.
  3. Townsend EA, Siviski ME, Xu C. Effects of Ginger and Its Constituents on Airway Smooth Muscle Relaxation and Calcium Regulation. American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3604064/. Published February 2013.
  4. Podlogar JA, Verspohl EJ. Antiinflammatory effects of ginger and some of its components in human bronchial epithelial (BEAS-2B) cells. Phytotherapy Research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21698672. Published March 2012.
  5. Mohajer T, Ghalyanchi A, Karimi V, Barin A, Sadri N. The effect of Allium sativum (Garlic) extract on infectious bronchitis virus in specific pathogen free embryonic egg. Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27516987. Published 2016.
  6. Krup V, L HP, A H. Pharmacological Activities of Turmeric (Curcuma longa linn): A Review. Journal of Traditional Medicine & Clinical Naturopathy . https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/pharmacological-activities-of-turmeric-curcuma-longa-linn-a-review-2167-1206.1000133.php?aid=18775. Published September 12, 2013.
  7. Gupta S, Agarwal M, Saluja M. Evaluation of Efficacy of Curcumin as an Add-on therapy in Patients of Bronchial Asthma. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research : JCDR. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4190737/. Published August 20, 2014.
  8. Horváth G, Ács K. Essential oils in the treatment of respiratory tract diseases highlighting their role in bacterial infections and their anti‐inflammatory action: a review. Flavour and Fragrance Journal Flavour and Fragrance Journal . https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ffj.3252. Published May 26, 2015.
  9. Satomura K, Kitamura T, Kawamura T, et al. Backention of upper respiratory tract infections by gargling: a randomized trial. American journal of preventive medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16242593. Published November 2005.
  10. Goldman RD. Honey for treatment of cough in children. Canadian Family Physician. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4264806/. Published December 2014.
  11. Mandal MD, Mandal S. Honey: its medicinal property and antibacterial activity. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3609166/. Published April 2011.
  12. Kumar KPS, Bhowmik D, Tiwari P. Allium cepa: A traditional medicinal herb and its health benefits. Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research. http://www.jocpr.com/abstract/allium-cepa-a-traditional-medicinal-herb-and-its-health-benefits-44.html. Published January 30, 2010.
  13. Song W-J, Chang Y- S. Magnesium sulfate for acute asthma in adults: a systematic literature review. Asia Pacific Allergy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3269605/. Published January 31, 2012.
  14. Elbossaty WF. Pharmaceutical Influences of Epsom Salts. American Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics. http://www.imedpub.com/articles/pharmaceutical-influences-of-epsom-salts.php?aid=23254. Published July 31, 2018.
  15. Hsu D-Z, Liu C-T, Chu, Periasamy S. Sesame Oil Attenuates Ovalbumin-Induced Pulmonary Edema and Bronchial Neutrophilic Inflammation in Mice. BioMed Research International. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2013/905670/abs/. Published April 4, 2013.
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