Bronchitis – The Basic Explanation

Bronchitis is the technical name for inflamed or irritated airways. Bronchitis can last anywhere between a few days and a few weeks, normally the result of a hard-to-shake cold or flu. When bronchitis drags on for more than a few weeks or occurs once a year or more often, it’s considered chronic and most likely to happen to smokers or people with other lung diseases.

bronchitis diagram

If you find you have bronchitis there are a few steps you can take to get better. Your main concern will be to get mucus up and out of your lungs as mucus-filled lungs breed bacteria that can cause pneumonia.

First, stop smoking immediately or avoid all second hand smoke if you are not a smoker. That lingering cough is an early warning signal of lung damage. If you stop smoking, you may cough up even more mucus for a time, but that’s actually a good sign. It shows that your lungs are working to clear themselves out. As your lungs heal, the cough will soon fade.

Second, get a humidifier. When you breathe in moist air, you help thin out mucus, which makes it easier to clear out the lungs. Taking a hot shower or bath, draping a towel over your head and breathing the steam from a bowl of hot water or running a humidifier in your bedroom as you sleep can all provide the moisture that your airways need to stay clear.

Third, drink plenty of water. Water helps thin mucous secretions in the lungs.

bronchitis lungs

Bronchitis lungs.

You might also begin to eat onions. Onions contain a number of ingredients, including quercetin, that may help protect the lungs from infection. Or try a cup of mullein tea. A brew of this herb is said to soothe mucous membranes and help remove mucus from the lungs. You might also add some spice to your diet. Red peppers, curry and other spicy foods that make your eyes water or nose run can help thin mucous secretions.

Finally, try blowing up balloons. By taking deeper breaths and blowing harder than one would normally, blowing up balloons may help people move mucus up and out of their lungs.

Bronchitis can set the stage for pneumonia, so see a doctor promptly if your cough gets worse, if you feel weak and tired or have a fever or if you’re short of breath. The only sure way to determine whether or not you have pneumonia is a chest x-ray.