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There’s a significant chance that a case of bronchitis will send you to your doctor sometime in the next twelve months.
From a hacking cough to the other terrible symptoms, no one wants to deal with this respiratory disorder.
Our guide shares the most common causes of bronchitis, ways to prevent it, and ways to naturally treat it.
We’ll even help you determine if you’re at high risk for developing bronchitis, and ways to protect yourself.
Because bronchitis symptoms can stick around for weeks on end, it’s an uncomfortable disorder that can occasionally be difficult to treat.
The top priorities for any bronchitis treatment are reducing the inflammation in your airways and relieving your cough.
To learn all about how you can quickly start feeling better the next time you get bronchitis, keep reading.
Your lungs are made up of a huge network of bronchial tubes, which carry air to all parts of your lungs.
When these bronchial tubes become inflamed, you have bronchitis.
A persistent cough is the #1 sign of bronchitis, which can make it difficult to breathe.
Because a cough lingers and is very persistent, many people with bronchitis develop wheezing or even have chest pain.
Most people who get bronchitis usually develop their symptoms after some other upper respiratory illness, such as the flu or a cold.
So if you’ve been sick with another infection, it’s possible to then develop bronchitis, which can sometimes make treating this disorder more challenging.
About one in twenty people will contract acute bronchitis this year, and most of them will see a doctor or seek medical advice to treat it.
The #5 leading cause for doctor’s visits among adults is a cough and other upper respiratory symptoms (1).
Symptoms of Bronchitis
A persistent, nagging cough is the most prevalent symptom of bronchitis.
Because your airways are inflamed, it’s difficult to get sufficient air, and your body coughs to try and clear the obstruction and make room for more air.
When this tactic doesn’t work, you a cough again. And again. And again.
Until you relieve the inflammation in your lungs, your cough will remain.
About half of all adults with bronchitis experience a cough for three weeks or less, but 25% of them have coughs that stick around for at least a month, sometimes longer.
Most cases of bronchitis develop after you’ve been ill with some other infection, so your symptoms may also include:
- A sore throat
- Fatigue, as it can be difficult to sleep when coughing
- Runny or stuffy nose
- A Fever
- Body aches, sometimes in the abdomen (from coughing)
- Tightness or pain in your chest
- Shortness of breath
Sometimes, your cough may clear mucus from your lungs.
Coughing up yellow or green mucus is a sign of a bacterial infection, whereas clear or white mucus usually indicates a viral infection.
Acute and Chronic Bronchitis
Short-term varieties of bronchitis are acute, usually lasting for up to ten days.
Acute bronchitis is the most common form, and it’s generally caused by the same viruses that cause colds and the flu.
While most people have acute bronchitis, some develop a chronic form of this disease, which lingers and can frequently return.
Chronic bronchitis results in chest discomfort, wheezing, and usually more fluid in your lungs, along with a more persistent or deeper cough.
Chronic bronchitis is a serious condition, which usually means you have a declining lung function.
Smoking is the usual cause of chronic bronchitis, as the bronchial tubes are constantly irritated and inflamed, which result in coughing and wheezing.
When your lungs are already compromised in this way, bacteria and viruses have an easier time making a new home in your body.
Causes and Risk Factors
The most common cause of bronchitis is a virus, usually the same type that causes the flu or a cold.
In 5 to 15% of cases, bacteria can also cause bronchitis, but this condition usually occurs in people with underlying health problems.
Regardless of the cause, when your body recognizes the foreign microbes, it starts making more mucus, and your bronchial tubes swell as you try to fight off the infection.
These reactions make breathing more difficult and cause air flow to constrict.
Certain factors can make you more at risk for contracting bronchitis:
- Infants and young children are more likely to contract it, as are the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.
- While chronic bronchitis can develop at any age, it’s most commonly seen in those over 45 and in smokers or those who live with smokers (4).
- Gender plays a role in the development of chronic bronchitis as well, as women are much more likely to develop it than men.
If you’re consistently exposed to chemical fumes, vapor, dust, or other airborne allergens, you’re at risk for developing bronchitis.
If your job involves inhaling small particles, working with animals, or working around chemicals, your risks are higher.
Anyone with food allergies or sensitivities is also at higher risk for bronchitis.
Treating Bronchitis Conventionally
In most cases, bronchitis will clear up on its own without any medical intervention.
But living with some of the more uncomfortable symptoms of bronchitis can make it difficult to wait patiently while your immune system takes care of the virus.
If you’re having trouble breathing, your doctor may prescribe a bronchodilator, which widens air passages by relaxing the muscles of your bronchial tubes.
These types of medications are frequently used for those with asthma, allergic reactions, COPD, and other respiratory disorders.
In bronchitis, they can be used in severe cases.
Pain and other symptoms of bronchitis are usually treated by over-the-counter medicines, such as NSAID pain relievers.
Be sure to follow the recommended dosage, and stop taking these medicines after you feel better.
What about Antibiotics?
The use of antibiotics to treat bronchitis is not well-supported by research.
Since the vast majority of bronchitis infections are caused by viruses, antibiotics are not effective in treating them.
Nevertheless, they’re prescribed in more than 75% of all acute bronchitis cases worldwide (5).
The over-prescribing of antibiotics to treat bronchitis is cause for concern, as it can contribute to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.
Researchers are trying to understand why doctors keep prescribing this medication when it’s demonstrated no clinical benefit for patients, and the answers are still unclear.
Unless your doctor has clear reasons for believing that you’re suffering from a bacterial infection and would, therefore, benefit from antibiotics, you shouldn’t take these types of medications to treat bronchitis.
Treating Bronchitis Naturally
Our recommendations for the most effective natural treatments for bronchitis include making lifestyle and diet changes, taking supplements, and using essential oils.
All of these remedies are designed to target the inflammation and other symptoms of bronchitis, which can leave you feeling pretty sick while you wait for the virus to pass.
Managing the nagging cough is of the utmost concern since it tends to linger long after the infection is clear, and many of our favorite remedies do just that.
Changes in Lifestyle and Diet
Get Some Rest
Any infection can cause fatigue.
So your body needs more rest when you’re ill, so it will have the energy to fight the infection.
Rest is a time-honored and necessary treatment for many types of infection, including bronchitis.
When you’re resting, you’re relaxing your airways, which allows more air to pass through, and decreases your cough.
Then your body will have more energy, which it can use to fight the infection and reduce inflammation while you’re resting.
Being sleep-deprived also makes you vulnerable to infection, so resting when you have a cold or the flu can help you prevent secondary infections from even forming.
While it’s sometimes difficult to unplug and rest when you’re ill, it’s vital that you do so for your continued recovery and health.
Drink lots of Water
When you have mucus from an infection, drinking plenty of water helps your mucus stay thin, which reduces your need to cough and makes it easier to breathe.
Drink at least one glass of water every two hours, as having a fever can quickly dehydrate you.
Warm liquids, such as herbal teas and hot water, are even more soothing, as their steam can help open airways.
Your Diet Can Lower Inflammation and Help your Immune System Work more Effectively
When you’re sick from infection, your top priority should be helping your immune system to work well.
When you have bronchitis, you should also be eating foods that lower the inflammation in your system.
Your diet should be rich in raw vegetables and fruits, plenty of clean sources of protein, and healthy fats.
Avoid processed foods, foods high in sugar or salt, or anything that will create more inflammation in your system.
Probiotics help your immune system stay healthy, and eating foods rich in them provides the healthy bacteria your gut needs to fight infection throughout your body.
Fermented foods are excellent sources of probiotics, so eat plenty of kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, and other probiotic-rich foods when you’re ill.
Dairy products often trigger the production of mucus, so avoid them when you have bronchitis.
Quit Smoking, and Don’t Expose Yourself to others’ Smoke
When your lungs are inflamed and irritated, the last thing you want to do is irritate and inflame them more.
Quitting smoking can both heal your lungs and treat chronic bronchitis, but it will lower inflammation, even in acute bouts of this disease.
In addition, quitting smoking has a number of other major health benefits for your heart, lungs, brain, and other systems.
When you have acute bronchitis, avoid being around cigarette smoke, vapors, fumes, allergens, and other irritants that can aggravate your lungs and make your coughing worse.
Use a Humidifier
Humidifiers loosen mucus and help improve airflow and wheezing (6).
Place a humidifier next to your bed each night while you’re sleeping, and whenever possible, have one running close to you while you’re recovering from bronchitis.
Try Some Breathing Techniques
When your airflow is constricted from bronchitis, you can use two breathing techniques that help you take in more air.
The pursed-lips technique is commonly recommended for people with COPD and other chronic respiratory disorders, but it can help you, too.
It works by slowing your breathing, keeping your airways open longer, reducing how hard you have to work to breathe and improving the exchange of air in your lungs.
The second technique is simple to learn.
Start by breathing in through your nose for approximately two seconds.
Next, pucker your lips as though you’re going to blow out a candle, then exhale slowly through your pursed lips for four to six seconds.
Repeat this technique until you feel your breathing calm.
Add Honey to Your Lemon Water
Honey has long been prized for its antibacterial properties, and it always works well to soothe the irritation in your mucus membranes caused by bronchitis.
Use honey to sweeten your herbal tea or warm water with lemon, which will help you expel the mucus in your lungs.
Echinacea has been Used to Boost the Immune System
Its antiviral properties are effective at fighting the common cold and reducing cold symptoms significantly, which are also very similar to bronchitis.
Echinacea can help relieve sore throats, headaches, colds, and the flu (7).
Vitamin C Boosts your Immunity
This tactic could help prevent a cold from becoming bronchitis, which eliminates the need to treat this problem altogether.
It’s always a good idea to eat foods high in Vitamin C, especially when you’re not feeling well.
Citrus fruit, kiwi, kale, strawberries, peppers, broccoli, and guava are all excellent sources of this essential vitamin.
N-acetylcysteine (or NAC) is a Very Good Supplement for Bronchitis
It can help lower coughing fits, help your lungs function better, thin the mucus clogging your airways, and make it easier to cough it out.
600 milligrams per day can help reduce the symptoms of acute bronchitis, whereas 1,200 milligrams per day is used to lessen the severity of chronic bronchitis symptoms (9).
Astragalus Root is a Powerful Immune Booster
Taking this supplement has the potential to strengthen your lungs, and help you fight the infections caused by bronchitis.
Ginseng has been Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to Treat Breathing Problems
Ginseng reduces inflammation and helps your lungs fight infection.
It’s commonly used by those with asthma, COPD, and other chronic respiratory issues (10).
Prevent Bronchitis with Vitamin D
A lack of vitamin D is linked to more severe, more frequent bouts of respiratory illnesses in adults and children, so ensure that you’re getting enough Vitamin D.
Using Essential Oils
Eucalyptus Oil is Wonderful for Opening Airways and Promoting Easier Breathing
Cineole is the compound in eucalyptus that improves lung function and reduces airway inflammation (12).
There are several ways to use eucalyptus to treat your bronchitis.
You can make your own vapor rub by mixing coconut oil with several drops of eucalyptus oil.
This mixture is useful when you apply it to your chest.
Or create a steam bath by using one cup of boiling water and ten drops of oil.
Place it in a bowl, cover your head with a towel to keep the vapors near your face, sit with your head bent over the bowl, and inhale deeply for ten minutes.
Oregano Oil has Antibacterial Properties that Make it Effective at Treating Bronchitis
Oregano oil also reduces inflammation and is particularly helpful for bronchitis that’s caused by allergies (13).
To treat bronchitis, take one to two drops of oregano oil, mix it with coconut oil, and take it orally for two weeks.
Peppermint Oil Can Calm Your Cough and Help Fight Infection
Peppermint’s strong scent can open clogged nasal passages and ease your sore throat, so inhale the scent of the oil directly from the bottle.
Directly apply several drops of peppermint oil to your chest, then apply a warm compress.
This tactic can help calm inflamed bronchial tubes and provide you with relief for your bronchitis symptoms (14).
Bronchitis is inflammation that affects the bronchial tubes in your lungs.
This tactic results in constricted breathing, coughing, chest pain, and wheezing.
The viruses that cause bronchitis are the same ones that cause cases of flu and colds, and it’s common to get bronchitis after having one of these infections.
You should see a doctor if:
- Your bronchitis symptoms aren’t improving after three weeks of treatment.
- You start coughing up blood.
- You have mucus that grows darker and thicker over time.
- You have chest pains when you’re not coughing.
- You’re having trouble breathing.
Chronic bronchitis is usually the result of smoking, while acute bronchitis is generally caused by a virus, although it can sometimes be caused by bacteria.
The best natural treatments for bronchitis include getting lots of rest, drinking plenty of water, eating to lower your inflammation, taking supplements to boost your immune system, and using essential oils to help you breathe easier.
Foods that boost your immune system include probiotics, fresh fruits, and vegetables.
If you have bronchitis, avoid ingesting dairy products and spicy, salty, sugary, and highly processed foods.
Other remedies that provide relief from bronchitis are ingesting honey, drinking warm liquids, using a humidifier, and utilizing breathing techniques to calm your breathing.