Bronchitis is a respiratory tract infection (viral or bacterial) that causes inflammation of the mucous lining of the bronchial tubes. Acute bronchitis generally is reversible. Chronic bronchitis, often referred to as smoker’s cough, is not usually reversible.
Signs and Symptoms of Bronchitis
- Cough that produces mucus or pus
- Burning sensation in the chest
- Sore throat and fever (with some types)
- Blue-tinted lips
- Weight gain
- Chronic cough that produces excessive amounts of mucus or pus
- Wheezing, shortness of breath
- Present for three consecutive months, two years in a row
What Causes Bronchitis?
Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a virus, but can also be caused by bacteria. Generally, acute bronchitis is passed from person to person. The main causes of chronic bronchitis are cigarette smoking and prolonged exposure to air pollution or other irritants such as dust and grain.
Risk Factors for Bronchitis
- Cigarette smoking
- Severe pneumonia early in life
- Being a man over age 50
What to Expect at Your Health Care Provider’s Office
Your provider will listen to your chest and back, look at your throat, and may draw blood and take a culture of the secretions from your lungs.
Treatment Options for Bronchitis
Chronic bronchitis may be irreversible but it is preventable. The best way to avoid bronchial infections is to not smoke and to stay away from air pollutants. Treatments include methods to control your cough and to bring up the secretions in your bronchial tubes. Your health care provider also will monitor you to be sure you are getting enough oxygen into your body.
Drug Therapies for Bronchitis
- Antibiotics—if the infection is caused by bacteria and not a virus
- Bronchodilators—reduce bronchial spasms
- Corticosteroids—reduce mucus and inflammation
- Cough medicine that contains an expectorant or tracheal suction—helps bring up secretions
- Cough medicine that contains a suppressant—for dry cough and to allow sleep; do not take if you have a bacterial infection
- Oxygen—if you are not breathing in enough oxygen on your own
Over the Counter
- Humidifiers—help loosen secretions
- Drink plenty of water
Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Bronchitis
Alternative therapies can be useful in treating chronic bronchitis.
Nutrition for Bronchitis
- Eliminate known allergenic foods (for example, eggs, milk, nuts, peanuts, soy), food coloring, preservatives, and additives. Reduce intake of mucus-producing foods such as dairy, citrus, wheat, and bananas. Onions and garlic help to thin mucus.
- Vitamin C (1,000 mg three to four times per day), zinc (30 mg per day), and beta-carotene (50,000 to 100,000 IU per day) support the immune system. Some studies suggest that smokers do not use beta-carotene. N-acetyl cysteine (200 mg twice a day between meals) protects lung tissue from damage and helps break up mucus.
Herbal Remedies for Bronchitis
Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Herbs can be used in combination. Tincture combinations should be taken at 30 drops three to four times per day. Make infusions with 1 heaping tsp. of herbal combination, steep covered for 10 minutes, and drink 3 to 4 cups per day. Substitute grindelia (Grindelia robusta) for licorice root if you have high blood pressure.
- Acute bronchitis: Thyme leaf (Thymus vulgaris), licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra), coneflower (Echinacea purpura), ginger (Zingiber officinalis), and linden flowers (Tilia cordata). Smokers should substitute Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata) for the linden flowers. White horehound (Marrabium vulgare) is a gentle stimulating expectorant (helps you cough up mucus) that relaxes spasms of the bronchi airway (passages in the lungs). Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) helps you cough up mucus and relaxes spasms.
- Chronic bronchitis: Pleurisy root (Asclepias tuberosa), Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata), elecampane (Inula helenium), licorice root, lungwort (Sticta pulmonaria), and lomatium (Lomatium dissectum). Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), is an herb that helps to sweat out impurities and relax spasms. Pill bearing spurge (Euphorbia hirta), isan herb that breaks up mucus and relaxes spasms.
- Garlic (Allium sativum) and ginger tea can be used long-term (2 cloves of garlic and 2 to 3 slices of ginger root). Simmer in 1 cup of water for 15 minutes. Drink 3 to 4 cups per day. Add honey or lemon to flavor.
Homeopathy for Bronchitis
Some of the most common remedies used for bronchitis are listed below. Usually, the dose is 12X to 30C every one to four hours until your symptoms get better.
- Antimonium tart for rattling cough with dizziness
- Hepar sulphuricum for later stages of bronchitis with wheezing, small amounts of phlegm, and coughing when you get cold
- Ipecacuanha for first stages of bronchitis with deep, wet cough
- Phosphorus for painful cough, and if you are thirsty and chilly
- Castor oil pack. Apply oil directly to skin, cover with a clean soft cloth and plastic wrap. Place a heat source (hot water bottle or heating pad) over the pack and let sit for 30 to 60 minutes.
- Chest rubs with 3 to 6 drops of essential oil in 1 tbsp. of food-grade oil. Thyme, eucalyptus, and pine oils can ease bronchial spasm and thin mucus.
- Running a humidifier with essential oils such as eucalyptus, tea tree, or marjoram at night may help thin mucus and ease cough.
- Postural drainage can be of great help in relieving congestion.
Acupuncture can bring relief to bronchial spasm and enhance immune function. Smoking cessation through acupuncture can be very successful.
Therapeutic massage can increase circulation and loosen mucus.
It can take from one to eight weeks to recover completely. To help prevent getting bronchitis again, do not smoke and try to avoid pollutants in the air. Getting an annual flu shot can also help.
Supporting Research on Bronchitis
Allan H, Goroll MD, et al, eds. Primary Care Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott-Raven Publishers; 1995:252–260, 285–294.
Bartram T. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. Dorset, England: Grace Publishers; 1995:72–73.
Bone RC, ed. Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby-Year Book, Inc; 1998:G3 1–6.
Cecil RL, Plum F, Bennett JC, eds. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 20th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders Company; 1996:382–389.
Kruzel T. The Homeopathic Emergency Guide. Berkeley, Calif: North Atlantic Books; 1992:40–43.
Rakel RE, ed. Conn’s Current Therapy. 50th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders Company; 1998:211–212.
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