Bronchitis is a respiratory tract infection (viral or bacterial) that causes inflammation of the mucous lining of the bronchial tubes. Acute bronchitis generally is reversible. Chronic bronchitis, often referred to as smoker's cough, is not usually reversible.

Signs and Symptoms

Acute bronchitis: Chronic bronchitis:

What Causes It?

Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a virus, but can also be caused by bacteria. Generally, acute bronchitis is passed from person to person. The main causes of chronic bronchitis are cigarette smoking and prolonged exposure to air pollution or other irritants such as dust and grain.

Risk Factors

What to Expect at Your Provider's Office

Your provider will listen to your chest and back, look at your throat, and may draw blood and take a culture of the secretions from your lungs.

Treatment Options

Treatment Plan
Chronic bronchitis may be irreversible but it is preventable. The best way to avoid bronchial infections is to not smoke and to stay away from air pollutants. Your health care provider may prescribe antibiotics to help treat your bronchitis if it is caused by bacteria. He or she may also suggest using a humidifier, taking a cough medicine that contains an expectorant (something that helps you "bring up" secretions), and drinking plenty of fluids.

Drug Therapies

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Alternative therapies can be useful in treating chronic bronchitis.

Nutrition Herbs
Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Herbs can be used in combination. Tincture combinations should be taken at 30 drops three to four times per day. Make infusions with 1 heaping tsp. of herbal combination, steep covered for 10 minutes, and drink 3 to 4 cups per day. Substitute grindelia (Grindelia robusta) for licorice root if you have high blood pressure. Homeopathy
Although very few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies, professional homeopaths may consider the following remedies for the treatment of bronchitis in addition to standard medical care. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person's constitutional type. A constitutional type is defined as a person's physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for each individual. Physical Medicine
Acupuncturists treat people with bronchitis based on an individualized assessment of the excesses and deficiencies of qi located in various meridians. Needling treatment for bronchitis tends to focus on the lung and spleen meridians. Acupuncturists usually perform other treatments as well to clear the blockage of qi in the chest area. These treatments may include specialized massage, moxibustion (a technique in which the herb mugwort is burned over specific acupuncture points), breathing exercises, lifestyle counseling, and herbal remedies.

Therapeutic massage can increase circulation and loosen mucus.

Following Up
It can take from one to eight weeks to recover completely. To help prevent getting bronchitis again, do not smoke and try to avoid pollutants in the air. Getting an annual flu shot can also help.


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