Bronchitis is a medical condition that occurs when the mucous membranes of the bronchial passages in the respiratory tract become inflamed. There are two types: acute and chronic. The more common symptoms of either type include a prevalent cough, increased mucus secretion, wheezing, and shortness of breath. As bad as it can sound, most sufferers can treat themselves at home. The worst thing to do is to ignore it – either type of bronchitis can turn into pneumonia if left alone.
Treating Acute Bronchitis
Acute bronchitis is caused by both viruses and bacteria. However, it is more commonly caused by viral-based sicknesses such as the common cold or flu. There a number of ways to self-treat.
Do not start with antibiotics. 90% of acute bronchitis cases are caused by viruses; a mere 10% by bacteria. Antibiotics fight bacteria, not viruses. In fact, when used in viral-based illnesses, antibiotics have been known to promote the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which increases risk to health and life. Use antibiotics to treat bronchitis only if you have medical proof that it is caused by bacteria.
The following is a list of safe and inexpensive ways to treat acute bronchitis.
Menthol and Eucalyptus
Ointments which use menthol or eucalyptus can be rubbed into the chest and will help loosen mucus secretions, which will ease breathing. Vaporizers can also help.
Humidifier or Humidifier Substitute
Humidifiers keep the air moist and easier to inhale. If you do not have access to a humidifier, it is fairly simple to improvise one. Two of the best recommendations are: keep a shower running with hot water, or boil a pot of water. The warm, moist air from the shower will promote breathing. Or, if you prefer not to deplete your hot water tank, boil a large pot of water on the stove. Once it starts steaming, lean over it about a foot and a half away. Drape a towel over your head so that most of the steam goes towards your face instead of escaping into the atmosphere (make sure the cloth is not touching the heating elements). The down side to this is that while it will save the hot water tank, you will be somewhat less mobile.
Sleep at an Angle
Lying flat on your back can put pressure on your respiratory tract. Sleeping at an angle on, say, two pillows, can relieve that pressure so you can have a more comfortable night.
Simply relaxing is a good way to heal yourself in a lot of illnesses, including bronchitis. Your body will be better able to use the energy you save towards getting you cured.
Drink Clear Liquids
Keeping hydrated is very important for curing bronchitis (as well as a number of other ailments). The best liquids in this case are water, apple juice, non-caffeinated herbal tea, and clear broth. They have the added benefit of helping to force out mucus. Keep in mind that hot liquids will loosen mucus secretions far better than cold ones will.
Do not smoke anything while you are recovering. For obvious reasons, the worst thing to do when trying to overcome a respiratory problem is to engage in an activity that weakens your ability to breathe.
Treating Chronic Bronchitis
Chronic bronchitis is a result of constant injury to or irritation of the air passages, and is most commonly caused by smoking, air pollution, or prolonged inhalation of other kinds of irritants (i.e., coal dust or chemical cleansing solutions). A diagnosis of chronic bronchitis can generally be arrived at if the cough has persisted for three months or more.
Most of the remedies that apply to acute bronchitis will work. However, there are two additional remedies here.
The best way to stop chronic bronchitis is to get away from the toxins that cause it. Stop smoking, work on changing any chemicals you use that lead to respiratory pain, and stay away from smoke of any kind. If it is not possible to remove yourself from toxic environments, wear a face mask to reduce the amount of toxins you inhale.
Take Cough Medicine
Cough medications suppress coughing and ease congestion. However, this is a temporary solution at best. Too much cough medication can cause your body to become resistant to it, a result with negative health implications of its own.
If none of these remedies work, then it is time to see a doctor. Doctors have the means to determine if your infection is bacterial rather than viral. They can prescribe appropriate corticosteroids and/or antibiotics. Or it may be that you have something other than bronchitis. A doctor will be able to get you the exact help you need. Never allow yourself to suffer unnecessarily when a cure is readily available.