Bronchitis is a respiratory disease that is characterized by the inflammation, infection or swelling of the lining inside the bronchial tubes, or bronchi. These tubes are vital to the respiratory process since they serve as air passageways between the nose and the lungs.
As a result, large amounts of mucus or phlegm are produced in these areas and clog the airways.1
This leads to an impaired ability to breathe in air and oxygen into the lungs, along with excess coughing, makes it difficult to get rid of the mucus. Patients can be diagnosed with either acute or chronic bronchitis.2,3 The most common symptoms of bronchitis that you should watch out for include:4,5
✓ Frequent coughs
✓ Mucus that can either be clear, white, yellowish-gray, green or streaked with blood (although this happens rarely)
✓ Shortness of breath
✓ Slight fever and chills
✓ Chest discomfort
✓ Body aches
✓ Blocked nose and sinuses
How Can You Get Bronchitis?
A person can be affected with bronchitis because of viral or bacterial infections, exposure to environments with high amounts of irritants like dust, fumes or smoke and repeated damage and irritation of the lung and airway tissues because of diseases like asthma or emphysema.6,7
Only viral or bacterial infections can render a case of bronchitis contagious. This is because these agents are often spread through droplets that are expelled when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.
The infected droplets can land on surfaces, and when a person touches them and their mouth, eyes or nose afterward, the virus or bacteria can make their way into the body.8
These Factors Can Affect Your Risk for Bronchitis
Take note that there are certain risk factors that can predispose some people to either acute or chronic bronchitis. If you or someone you know falls under these categories, make sure to implement precautionary methods against bronchitis:9
• Smoking: people who smoke or live with smokers have a higher risk for bronchitis. In fact, it’s said that an estimated 90 percent of patients with chronic bronchitis have a history of smoking.10
• Gastric reflux: should stomach acids in people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) enter the bronchial tubes, this can increase a patient’s risk for acute bronchitis.11 Plus, if you or someone you know has already experienced repeated incidences of severe heartburn, this can irritate the throat and result in a higher possibility for bronchitis.
• On-the-job exposure: if you have a job wherein you are exposed to lung irritants or chemical fumes, this could increase your risk for bronchitis.
• Weakened immune system: low resistance as a result of past acute or chronic conditions can raise your chances of bronchitis. Infants, young children and older adults who have weaker immune systems are also more prone to the disease.