It's often said that prevention is better than cure, and that is true if you want to prevent bronchitis. There are actually three ways that you can stop this disease from affecting you and your loved ones.1 These prevention techniques are both inexpensive and easy to follow. What's even better is that you can teach these methods to anyone in your home or community, so they can protect themselves from this disease.
Stop Smoking — Period
If you want to prevent bronchitis, stop smoking immediately — or do not start. You can convince and help smokers that you know to find a way to stop this habit. On the other hand, if you're already a smoker, quit this habit as early as you possibly can.2
Exposing your lungs to any amount of cigarette or tobacco smoke can greatly impact your chances of being diagnosed with either acute or chronic bronchitis. In particular, it's said that smoking is one of the most common causes of the latter.3 There are certain chemicals in cigarette smoke that can disrupt your body's method of filtering air and cleaning out the lungs.
As a result, the lungs get irritated, there is an overproduction of mucus and the cilia, tiny hair-like structures lining your airways that help eliminate dust and dirt, are paralyzed. This causes an accumulation of mucus and other toxic substances that clog your lungs.4 Patients with bronchitis typically experience mucus-producing coughs, wheezing and/or shortness of breath — common symptoms that are attributed to smoking or exposure to smoke.5
Reduce Exposure to Lung Irritants
Aside from cigarette or tobacco smoke, irritants such as dust, fumes, vapor and polluted air can damage your lungs and eventually cause bronchitis. Ideally, you should avoid all kinds of exposure to these substances.
However, if you cannot avoid them, such as if they're constantly present in your work environment, wear a mask provided by your doctor6 to cover your nose and mouth.7 You also might ask your employer to do an air quality test in your work area, and to possibly remedy the situation with air filters or special accommodations for you.
The Cleveland Clinic also has a very extensive list of techniques that can help in lessening your exposure to lung irritants and lowering your risk for bronchitis and other respiratory diseases, such as:8
✓ Keep your house clean and free from excess dust.
✓ Clean the bathroom and sinks well to eliminate mold or mildew.
✓ Ensure that the cooking vent is working properly to draw out cooking fumes.
✓ Avoid large crowds in the fall and/or winter when the flu season is at its peak.
✓ Clean breathing equipment thoroughly.
✓ Refrain from rubbing your eyes, since this can transmit germs to the nasal passage via the tear ducts.
✓ Protect yourself from infections, especially when traveling.
✓ Stay in non-smoking areas in public areas and request non-smoking rooms and/or cars while traveling.
✓ Avoid parking in underground garages.
✓ Avoid areas that are very industrialized or have high volumes of traffic.
✓ Refrain from using perfumes, scented lotions or highly scented products.
✓ Use non-aerosol cleaning or painting products in well-ventilated areas.
✓ Wear a mask or handkerchief over your mouth while dusting, vacuuming and/or sweeping your house and/or yard.
✓ Lessen exposure to dust by constantly changing filters on heaters and air conditioners.
✓ Keep pets outside of the house, especially if you are experiencing wheezing.
✓ Use an exhaust fan while cooking to eliminate smoke and other odors.
✓ Stay indoors as much as possible when the air outside has poor quality and high amounts of pollen have been detected.
✓ Use a dehumidifier in your home.
Proper Hand Washing Is the Way to Go
Bronchitis may be caused by a lower respiratory viral infection, such as the common cold or flu.9 Washing your hands before and after eating, as well as after using the restroom or going to public places is important if you want to prevent this disease. This way, you'll be able to limit your exposure to germs and/or bacteria.10
There are actually only two things that you need for proper handwashing: warm running water and mild, fragrance-free soap. To ensure that you remove as many germs as possible when you wash your hands, follow these easy steps:
- Work up a good lather by combining the soap and water. Make sure it goes all the way up to your wrist.
- Scrub for at least 15 to 20 seconds.
- Make sure that you cover all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and around and below your fingernails.
- Rinse thoroughly under running water.
- If you're washing your hands in public places, use a paper towel to open the door to protect yourself from germs that may be on the door handles.
If you live in a household or work in buildings where antibacterial soap is used, make the switch to mild and fragrance-free soap as soon as possible. Antibacterial soaps actually do not have any advantages over plain soap. In fact, they may actually be riskier.
A chemical called triclosan that's typically found in antibacterial soap was shown to penetrate through your skin and enter the bloodstream easier than what was once perceived.11 Plus, triclosan was also linked to a rise in allergies among children12 and estrogenic activities in human breast cancer cells, stimulating their growth and development.13
Various animal studies have also revealed that triclosan caused impairments in muscle function,14 fetal bone malformations, changes to thyroid hormone-mediated processes of metamorphosis among North American bullfrogs15 and reduction of a thyroid hormone found in rats called thyroxine (T4).16