Bronchitis is defined as inflammation of the mucus membrane of the bronchi in the lungs. Bronchitis can be classified into two major categories -acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis. Acute bronchitis is an acute condition, in which the symptoms of bronchitis develop suddenly and the condition lasts for a relatively short period of time. Chronic bronchitis, as the name suggests is a chronic condition, which lasts for a longer period of time and the symptoms have a gradual onset. Chronic bronchitis is a type of COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Symptoms of Bronchitis
A person may suffer from an attack of acute bronchitis or he may have developed chronic bronchitis and is suffering from an acute attack. Some of the common symptoms of bronchitis are mentioned below.
Acute bronchitis usually occurs after a viral infection such as influenza
Symptoms of acute bronchitis generally have a sudden onset. The person complains of a sore throat, chilliness, fever or a runny nose. In other cases he may suffer from influenza or an attack of sinusitis. Backache and muscle ache may accompany the existing symptoms if it is a severe case of viral influenza. And then the infection travels down to the respiratory tract. The bronchi and the bronchioles get inflamed. The mucus membrane on the inner side of the bronchi gets inflamed. As a result of this there is excessive secretion of mucus by the mucus membranes. This results in an attack of acute bronchitis.
Greenish yellow sputum with high fever may indicate a bacterial infection
When the person suffers from an attack of acute bronchitis, the cough is usually dry and mild. Gradually there is increased production of sputum. If the color of the sputum changes from transparent and white to greenish yellow, along with the presence of high fever and chills then there may be a possibility of a secondary bacterial infection.
Respiratory wheeze may be present along with cough
In case of acute bronchitis, the airways become inflamed and there is excessive secretion of mucus. The inflammation of the bronchioles may also be triggered by other factors such as exposure to dust, cold air, smoke and irritating odors. This may result in temporary narrowing of the airways. The narrow airways and excessive secretion of the mucus causes limitation and obstruction to the flow of air, in and out of the lungs. This causes a respiratory wheeze. This is especially significant in people suffering from chronic asthma and having an acute attack of bronchitis. The wheezing occurs especially after coughing and is more prominent at night. The person suffering from an attack of acute bronchitis may also complain of difficulty in breathing due to the narrowing of the airways. The difficult respiration is aggravated at night and on lying down. Sometimes the person has to sit up the whole night or rock in a chair to and fro, as lying down on bed only makes the condition worse. If a person is suffering from chronic bronchitis, then the respiratory difficulties may be aggravated in winter, cold weather and even by minimal physical exertion such as climbing the stairs.