What Is Allergic Bronchitis?
The term “bronchitis” refers to inflammation of the bronchi – large and medium-sized airways conducting air to the lungs from the nose and mouth.
The airways swell and narrow, which leads to coughing and difficulty breathing. Besides, increased production of mucus, caused by irritation, can block the airway.
Depending on what’s causing the condition, there are various types of bronchitis, such as allergic, non-allergic, and asthmatic.
All these types cause similar symptoms, but there may be some differences in how long the symptoms last and how the condition is treated.
What Should You Know About Allergic Bronchitis?
Allergy is one of the most common causes of bronchitis. Exposure to airborne allergens, such as pollen, dust, or mold spores, may often lead to inflammation of the bronchial tubes in allergic people. Allergic bronchitis is also very common in people who smoke cigarettes.
The symptoms usually include coughing with mucus, wheezing, chest tightness, as well as tiredness.
If you have allergic bronchitis, your symptoms may persist for a long time and even recur.
If the symptoms last for more than three months, the condition is often classified as chronic bronchitis – a type of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). In the majority of cases, chronic bronchitis is a result of cigarette smoking.
Sometimes, allergic bronchitis may cause further complications. Thus, people may develop a lung infection like pneumonia, which in severe cases can result in septicemia – a life-threatening infection in the bloodstream.
What Is Non-Allergic Bronchitis?
Other potential causes of bronchitis include certain viral or bacterial infections. Thus, it is possible to develop non-allergic bronchitis because of a cold.
Non-allergic bronchitis is commonly referred to as acute bronchitis, because the symptoms usually occur suddenly.
Unlike with allergic bronchitis, the symptoms of non-allergic bronchitis usually last no longer than a few weeks. The risk of recurrence of the symptoms is also lower.
People with non-allergic bronchitis often experience coughing with mucus, fever, and chills.
Non-allergic bronchitis may affect people of all ages, but older adults are more likely to develop this condition after upper respiratory infections. Risk factors also include a weakened immune system and smoking.
What About Asthmatic Bronchitis?
Asthma is a condition that affects your lungs and makes it difficult to keep breathing. Like bronchitis, asthma can cause inflammation of the bronchial tubes, as well as swelling of the airways.
Some people may experience asthma and bronchitis at the same time – such a condition is usually called asthmatic bronchitis.
Asthmatic bronchitis may cause symptoms like coughing, wheezing, excessive mucus, and breath shortness.
This type of bronchitis affects people with underlying asthma. The symptoms can be triggered by exposure to certain irritants, including pollen, cigarette smoke, or pollution. Changes in weather or exercise routine may also lead to asthmatic bronchitis in some people.
If you have asthmatic bronchitis, these environmental triggers will cause the release of leukotrienes on your body. These inflammatory molecules are responsible for various reactions, including narrowing and irritation of the airways.
How Is Bronchitis Diagnosed?
If you think that you might have bronchitis, you should make a visit to your doctor. Bronchitis can be diagnosed based on a number of factors.
In order to make a diagnosis, the specialist will ask you some questions about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam.
The physical examination may involve a chest X-ray, which helps to exclude other potential causes of the symptoms. You may also need to conduct a blood test to see if there is any infection in your body.
Your doctor may also suggest that you perform a pulmonary function test that helps to identify the presence of asthma, chronic bronchitis and other lung diseases. In this test, a patient has to blow into a special device known as a spirometer. Spirometer is used for measuring the amount of air exhaled, as well as the speed of exhaling.
How Should You Treat Allergic Bronchitis?
Many people with allergic bronchitis use bronchodilators to reduce their symptoms. Bronchodilators are medications that work by relaxing the muscles around the airways. This leads to widening of the airways and makes it easier to breathe. Bronchodilators are usually used with a metered dose inhaler.
There are short-acting and long-acting bronchodilators available on the market. If you want to reduce the symptoms quickly, you can use a short-acting bronchodilator. However, the effects will not last.
When a longer control of the symptoms is required, it’s better to use long-acting bronchodilators.
If you have allergic bronchitis, steroids can help you find relief. These medications work by reducing the inflammation in the bronchi, which relieves coughing and stabilizes air-flow in the lungs.
Steroids can be administered orally, intravenously or through an inhaler. When it comes to bronchitis, experts recommend using an inhaler, as it helps to deliver the medication to the area requiring treatment more quickly.
If you suffer from excess mucus, mucolytics can help you expel the mucus from the lungs with coughing. These medications work by thinning the mucus and making it less sticky.
You can use oral mucolytics and take the medication through a special device called nebulizer. This device helps to change a liquid into an aerosol, which can then be inhaled.
Sometimes, severe allergic bronchitis may lead to decreased levels of oxygen in the blood. It happens because the condition may affect the oxygen flow into and out of your lungs.
If your oxygen levels are low, your doctor may recommend an oxygen therapy to get them back to normal.
Pulmonary rehabilitation classes can also help people with chronic allergic bronchitis. They offer supervised breathing exercise and educate on how to manage allergic bronchitis. During these classes, you can learn to reduce exposure to allergens triggering your symptoms and breathe better in general.
The treatment of asthmatic bronchitis usually requires similar medications and therapies, as in case of allergic bronchitis. In addition, asthmatic bronchitis can also be treated with leukotriene modifiers. These drugs help to reduce the symptoms by interfering with the related chemical reactions in the body.
When it comes to acute non-allergic bronchitis, the treatment may not be required. However, if the condition is caused by a bacterial infection, you may need to use antibiotics.
Can You Treat Allergic Bronchitis with Home Remedies?
Although most of the treatments mentioned above are available with prescription, you can also control allergic bronchitis by taking certain measures at home. There are various home remedies that can help to reduce your symptoms.
If you experience symptoms like excess mucus and wheezing, you can reduce them by using an air humidifier. A humidifier is meant to moisten the air, which helps to loosen the mucus and make it easier to get rid of. Make sure to consult with your doctor before using this device, if you have asthma.
Experts also recommend drinking plenty of water in order to keep mucus thin.
To relieve a sore throat resulting from persistent coughing, you can also try gargling with salt water.
You may also want to take a cough drop to keep your throat moist and reduce coughing caused by allergic bronchitis.
How to Prevent Allergic Bronchitis?
Just like in allergies, you need to avoid your triggers, in order to prevent allergic bronchitis. Common triggers include chemical fumes, dust, air pollution, pollen, mold spores, etc. If you are prone to developing asthmatic bronchitis, make sure to keep your asthma under control and avoid the irritants.
Remember that cigarette smoke is one of the most common causes of chronic allergic bronchitis. Therefore, if you are a smoker, you will need to quit smoking.
If exposure to outdoor allergens like pollen and mold causes you to experience allergic bronchitis, you may be better off wearing a mask when spending time outside, especially when doing yard work.