Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchi – the small air passages in the lungs.
It usually occurs as result of a viral infection (often after a cold or flu when the body's immune system is low). However irritation from cigarette smoke or dusty polluted environments can also cause bronchial inflammation. The 'smoker's cough' many complain of can often be the first sign of chronic bronchitis.
Bronchitis causes swelling of the airways and increased production of mucus,
which leads to symptoms including:
Coughing up phlegm
- Cyanosis – blue tinge to the skin from lack of oxygen
If left untreated bronchitis can lead to bacterial infections, such as pneumonia, and can permanently damage the delicate air passages in the lungs.
Bronchitis has similar symptoms to flu or asthma and is often misdiagnosed at home, therefore it is best to see a doctor for a proper medical evaluation.
Smoking is a major risk factor for bronchitis and smokers experiencing early symptoms should seek advice about quitting. Your doctor can advise on methods of quitting or you can visit www.quit.org.au for more information.
Keeping away from passive smoke and smoky environments - even if you do not smoke - is essential for recovery. Although bronchitis is a viral infection, antibiotics may also be prescribed to prevent pneumonia or other bacterial infections from developing.
Immune System Support
Since bronchitis often results during times of immune system weakness – such as during a cold or flu, boosting the immune system is important.
Supplementing the diet with certain vitamins and may help in resisting infections and encouraging quicker recovery. Click here for more information on Nutrition and your Immune System.
One of the most important priorities with bronchitis is to rid the lungs of excess fluid so oxygen can circulate.
A type of medicine called "Expectorants" are used for this purpose. These medicines decrease the viscosity (thickness) of mucus and make it easier to expel from the lungs. A cough medicine containing a cough suppressant should never be used as it does the exact opposite.
Eucalyptus oil is a powerful, natural expectorant, used for over 150 years. When used on its own, or in conjunction with steam vapour therapy, it can help loosen phlegm and help clear fluid on the lungs, helping the lungs to heal. It is also found in "inhalants" which are blends of eucalyptus oil and other aromatic oils.
Add 15 to 20 drops of eucalyptus oil or inhalant to a bowl of steaming hot water and inhale, using a towel over the head. Or try running a steam vaporiser in the bedroom for all-night relief. The steam helps to naturally clear mucus from the chest allowing easier breathing and more restful sleep, therefore assisting with recovery.
Bed rest is most important to help the body to heal
Drink plenty of water to help keep the mucus in the lungs runny and easier
to cough up
Avoid smoky or dusty environments