Bronchitis symptoms often start with flu symptoms and the progress is determined when cough on sets.
Often times, bronchitis symptoms are left unattended. The usual reason is that most symptoms are mild and self-limiting or they resolve on their own. Flu is generally the front act of bronchitis. In fact, primary manifestations may occur after flu symptoms were experienced.
Before going deeper on the discussion with bronchitis symptoms, let’s have an overview on what the disease is.
What is bronchitis?
Bronchitis is defined as an acute swelling in the airways within the lungs. The structures that become swollen are the trachea also known as the windpipe and the bronchi (small and large air passages) within the lungs. The inflammation is usually brought about by infection or irritation from other sources. Apart from the swelling of the airways’ thin lining or the mucosa, fluids may also leak from the cells that comprise the lining as a response to the existing inflammation.
Bronchitis can be classified as acute or chronic. Acute bronchitis has sudden onset and last for ten days only. However, chronic bronchitis can last longer due to consistent inflammation of the airways from constant exposure to irritants or other causes of bronchial inflammation.
Furthermore, bronchitis may affect both the adult and younger population, especially children. Both age groups usually manifest similar bronchitis symptoms. Likewise, infants may also acquire bronchitis. However, the structures which are mostly affected are the smaller airways called bronchioles. Hence, the condition is more likely called bronchiolitis, which manifest asthma-like symptoms.
Moreover, bronchitis and asthma can both exist at the same time. The condition is called asthmatic bronchitis. The symptoms of both asthma and bronchitis are also combined in the said condition. There will be an inflammation and stiffness in the muscles of the airways resulting to productive cough, wheezes and difficulty of breathing.
On the other hand, bronchitis can be contagious depending on its cause. If the origin of the disease is an infection from viruses or bacteria, it can possibly be transmitted to other individuals. However, if the cause is irritants from the environment such as cigarette smoking or pollutants in the air, definitely bronchitis would not be contagious.
What are symptoms of bronchitis?
Previously, it was stressed-out that the symptoms of bronchitis start with flu symptoms and these are as follows:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Fever accompanied by chills
- Chest and back muscle pain
- Nasal congestion
After these symptoms are experienced, a person will manifest primary symptoms of bronchitis, particularly cough. There are distinct characteristics to determine bronchitis cough:
- It can be a productive cough (with phlegm) or non-productive cough (without phlegm). The phlegm is whitish in color if it is viral in nature and light green if the cause is bacterial infection.
- Cough may take more than 2 weeks before it resolves. However, persistent forceful coughing may lead to chest and abdominal muscle inflammation. Hence, cough will be accompanied by chest pain.
- Wheezing may also be noted due to stiffness of airways muscles. Wheezing is a high-pitched abnormal breath sound brought about by a narrowed airway which is heard upon exhalation.
- Combined wheezing and shortness of breath is also possible for those individuals with asthmatic bronchitis.
Furthermore, a person with bronchitis symptoms must seek for medical help if the manifestations become severe and/or accompanied by the following:
- Persistently severe cough that disrupts sleep or rest may indicate need for antitussive medication to suppress coughing.
- Severe wheezing should be referred to a physician as it can be life-threatening.
- Fever that is four or five days beyond may indicate a more serious condition such as Pneumonia.
- Coughing out with blood also known as hemoptysis may indicate severe damage to the airways. Likewise, it may also imply the presence of another infection like Pulmonary Tuberculosis.
- Rusty-colored phlegm or excessively productive cough with green-colored sputum is also a sign of other severe conditions.
The symptoms mentioned above can be a mere progress of bronchitis. However, these may also imply complications that originated from a mild condition, yet remained untreated and unattended. Hence, it became more severe.
What causes symptoms of bronchitis?
Bronchitis is usually prevalent during flu season. Besides, bronchitis begins with flu. The most common causes of bronchitis are as follows:
- viruses (influenza A & B)
- bacteria (Mycoplasma pneumoniae)
- environmental irritants such as dust, fumes, smoke and many more that can also cause inflammation of the airways
Bronchitis symptoms might range from mild to severe. It is significant that these symptoms must be properly assessed by medical practitioners to avoid other life-threatening conditions. In fact, there are diseases that might manifest mild symptoms at its onset and then suddenly become severe. Therefore, persons with respiratory conditions must be cautious enough to avoid impending catastrophes.