The body is an interconnection of complex systems and each of the system comprises of various organs with different tissues and cells working together for the proper functioning of the system. The respiratory system is one of such systems, the respiratory system controls the mechanism of human breathing and for our body to provide us with energy it combines the oxygen from the air we breathe with other nutrients in the food we eat. Some of the organs in the human respiratory system are: trachea, larynx, bronchioles, bronchial tubes, alveoli, lungs etc. These organs in connection with other organs processes the air we breathe that is; pull out oxygen that is needed and then expel other waste (nitrogenous etc.) out of the body. Human life is tied to breathe because one of the vital indications of life is the ability to breathe. Lack of appropriate breath can shorten life. There are conditions that can hinder breathing; one of such condition is the inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes (the organ responsible for carrying oxygen to and fro the lungs), this condition is called Bronchitis.
What is Bronchitis?
This is defined as the inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes; the tube responsible for the passage of airs to and fro the lungs. The inflammation is as a result of excessive secretion of sputum in the tubes with tissue swelling that may narrow or close the bronchial tubes. It can cause obstruction or difficulty in breathing and can lead to death if not treated. An individual with this condition often coughs up thickened mucus, which can be discolored.
Types of bronchitis
Bronchitis is categorized into acute and chronic bronchitis;
Acute bronchitis: This is the most common type of bronchitis. It is also referred to as chest cold. It can be improved within 7 – 10 days, although the cough might linger for weeks but without any lasting effect on the person.
Chronic bronchitis: This type of bronchitis occurs when there is consistent irritation of the lining of the bronchial tubes as a result of smoking and repeated bouts of bronchitis. It can also be explained as a productive cough that lasts at least three months, with periodic bouts occurring for at least two consecutive years. Chronic bronchitis is one of the conditions included in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is more serious than acute bronchitis.
Bronchitis like every other conditions, if not treated on time the symptoms can worsen which can lead to an acute infection or chronic bronchitis. The following are signs and symptoms of bronchitis irrespective of the type:
Production of mucus (sputum) and sometime with blood stain
Shortness of breath
Slight fever and chills
Individuals with acute bronchitis might have cold symptoms such as a mild headache or body aches.
Causes of bronchitis?
Acute bronchitis is usually caused by viruses, typically the same viruses that cause colds and flu (influenza). The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is cigarette smoking and air pollution from dust or toxic gases in the environment or workplace.
Factors that increase the chance of contracting bronchitis include:
1. Low resistance. Suppressed immune system caused by acute illness, such as a cold, or other chronic condition can increase an individual’s chances of infection. Infants, young children and the aged have greater vulnerability to infection.
2. Cigarette smoke. Individuals exposed to smoke or people who smoke are at higher risk of both acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis.
3. Gastric reflux. Repeated bouts of severe heartburn can irritate the throat and make an individual more prone to developing bronchitis.
4. Exposure to irritants on the job. Exposure or working around certain lung irritants, such as grains or textiles, or chemical fumes can increase the tendency of developing bronchitis.
Complications associated with bronchitis
The most common complication of bronchitis is pneumonia. This can occur when the infection spreads further into the lungs. In an individual with pneumonia, the air sacs within the lungs are filled with fluid or pus. The infection can be life threatening to anyone, but specifically to infants and older adults (over 65 years). Other complications associated with bronchitis are; difficulty breathing, sometimes severe, respiratory failure, enlargement and weakness of the heart right ventricle, pneumothorax (lungs collapse) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease etc.
Here are steps to reduce the risk of bronchitis;
Avoid cigarette smoking/smokes
Imbibe good hand washing practices
Wear a surgical mask to protect from dust and other air pollutants
The steady flow of air in and out of the lungs is very important for life survival. The bronchial tube is vital for air flow hence, the blockage or inflammation of such tube is a form of suicide mission in disguise. To combat this life threatening condition any person experiencing excessive secretion of mucus or pus is advised to go for medication. Rapid response is paramount to cushion the effect and damage related to the condition.
Omame Joseph Benjamin is a public health enthusiast with focus on mental and reproductive health. He has passion for reproductive health of individuals and family, and obtained his bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation Science from the prestigious University of Jos in Nigeria. He is currently undergoing his postgraduate study in public health focusing on population and Reproductive health at the University of Ibadan. Omame is also a good data analyst with verifiable track record.