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Bronchitis

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If you think you have bronchitis do not try and wait for the symptoms to heal on their own, contact Johns Creek Dermatology and Family Medicine today to get help.

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the air tubes called bronchi used to carry oxygen to the lungs. The condition refers to irritation or infection of the bronchi, causing them to swell. These tubes are small branches of the patient’s trachea. Formation of mucous causes congestion in the sufferer’s chest.

Patients sometimes ask about the similarity of symptoms between bronchitis and asthma. It’s important to consult the doctor when these symptoms present because both require a doctor’s diagnosis and treatment. Johns Creek Dermatology and Family Medicine provides evaluation, diagnosis, and medical treatment to patients and families.

Acute Vs. Chronic Forms

An acute form of the illness may appear after a bacterial, viral or fungal infection, or when the patient is exposed to irritants like chemical fumes or cigarette smoke. The respiratory tracts of children may be especially sensitive to these triggers as they heal from a first illness. A bronchitis attack is still considered acute if it lasts less than ninety days according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

A person has chronic bronchitis if his or her illness lasts three months or more. The chronic form of bronchitis is often seen with the presentation of other illnesses such as emphysema. If the patient has both chronic bronchitis and emphysema, he or she has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

If the patient has chronic bronchitis, the doctor may prescribe a bronchodilator to open the air passages. If the patient has severe difficulty in breathing, he or she may be prescribed an oral medicine. In some cases, the doctor may prescribe steroids if the patient’s symptoms don’t respond to other treatments. Although patients with asthma also use some of these treatments, the two illnesses occur for different reasons. Both illnesses are serious conditions and require medical treatment.

Symptoms and Comparison

Symptoms of bronchitis may first present like cold symptoms. The patient often has a sore throat, mild fever, muscle aches, a low-grade fever (one hundred to one hundred and one degrees Fahrenheit) and runny nose. It’s important to call the doctor if the patient’s temperature rises above this level or if a low-grade fever lingers for three days or more. Contact the doctor immediately if the patient is an infant or young child. Johns Creek Dermatology and Family Medicine offers family-focused medical services to patients of all ages.

A cough usually develops after a few days. The patient may also complain about shortness of breath. Although the cough may begin as an ‘unproductive cough’ (the patient doesn’t bring up fluids when he or she coughs), those around him or her may soon hear a wet cough or wheeze. A cough lasting more than several days is reason to contact the doctor’s office because, if bronchitis is present, the patient’s bronchi may become infected over days or weeks. He or she may need medication to clear the infection.

Patients with bronchitis may have a bad cough for weeks after the condition resolves. In order to loosen mucous, it’s important to drink lots of clear liquids every day and use a humidifier near a chair or bed. The patient should avoid the use of cough suppressants because the patient must rid the fluid and mucous from his or her bronchial passages. The doctor may prescribe a suppressant or sleeping aid at night so that the patient can rest.

In comparison, a patient suffering an asthma attack is unlikely to present with symptoms of a cold at first. He or she is likely to wheeze and cough with greater frequency as constriction of airway passages happens more often to the asthma patient. The patient with bronchitis has a wet-sounding cough while the asthma patient’s cough sounds dry.

Considerations

People with bronchitis shouldn’t smoke or inhale other substances into the lungs. Occupational chemicals or constant inhalation of particles or dust can exacerbate the patient’s symptoms. The doctor is likely to recommend a special protective mask for the patient to use in the workplace. If environmental factors are the cause of the patient’s chronic bronchitis, he or she must consider the long-term impact of the environment upon health.

Emergency conditions may result if the patient isn’t getting enough oxygen into his or her lungs. Bluish-tinged skin or lips and/or extreme chest tightness indicate an emergency condition. The patient should go directly to the hospital emergency room for treatment.

In order to diagnose a chronic form of the disease, the doctor evaluates symptoms such as presence of productive cough, chest tightness, or difficulty in breathing. Pulmonary function tests may be used to determine how well and efficiently the patient’s lungs work. The doctor may also order blood tests and chest X-rays or other tests. If the patient isn’t receiving enough oxygen into the lungs, supplemental oxygen therapy may be required.

Conclusion

Bronchitis is a serious condition that requires medical treatment. If the patient or family wonders, “Is bronchitis contagious?” the answer is simple to determine. If the cause of the patient’s bronchitis is bacterial or viral, the patient can pass the illness on to others. Patients should not wait for symptoms of this illness to resolve on their own. Prescription medication and doctor’s care are required when the patient has either acute or chronic bronchitis. Contact Dr. Zack Charkawi with concerns about bronchitis at 770-771-6591. Patients in and around North Atlanta, including Roswell, Johns Creek, Dawsonville, Cumming, and Alpharetta, should make an appointment today.