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Bronchitis

Bronchitis occurs when the bronchioles (air tubes in the lungs) are inflamed and make too much mucus. There are two basic types of bronchitis:

Chronic bronchitis is a cough that persists for two to three months out of the year for at least two years. The cough and inflammation may be caused by infection, illness or exposure to tobacco smoke or other irritating substances in the air.

Acute or short-term bronchitis is more common and usually is caused by a viral infection. Episodes of acute bronchitis can be related to and worsened by smoking.

Symptoms

  • A cough that is frequent and produces mucus
  • A lack of energy
  • A wheezing sound when breathing (may or may not be present)
  • A fever (may or may not be present)
  • Any shortness of breath or wheezing
  • A change in the color of mucus

If you have bronchitis:

  • Drink fluids every one to two hours, unless your doctor has restricted your fluid intake.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Relieve body aches by taking aspirin or acetaminophen.
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions on ways to help you clear your mucus.

If you have a cough that is severe or keeps you from sleeping, your doctor may prescribe a cough medicine to suppress (or quiet) your cough. If you have a dry cough or difficulty bringing up  mucus, your doctor may also prescribe an expectorant to help loosen and cough out the mucus.

If you have a moist, productive cough (with mucus), note how often you cough as well as the color and amount of the sputum (mucus). Report this to your doctor.

Reduce the risk of contracting bronchitis

  • Don’t smoke
  • Don’t allow others to smoke in your home
  • Stay away from or try to reduce your time around things that irritate your airway (nose, throat and lungs)
  • If you catch a cold, get plenty of rest
  • Take your medicine exactly the way your doctor tells you
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Wash your hands often

When to see your doctor

See your health care provider if you have a cough that produces blood, a fever that is greater than 102 degrees F, a fever that lasts more than five days, and/or a cold that lingers more than two to three weeks.

Pneumonia

Pneumonia is an infection that inflames your lungs’ air sacs (alveoli). The air sacs fill up with fluid or pus causing symptoms such as a cough, fever, chills and trouble breathing.   How your body responds to pneumonia depends on the type of germ causing the infection, your age and your overall health.

Signs and symptoms

  • Cough, which may produce greenish, yellow or even bloody mucus
  • Fever, sweating and shaking chills
  • Shortness of breath or rapid, shallow breathing
  • Sharp or stabbing chest pain that gets worse when you breathe deeply or cough
  • Loss of appetite, low energy, and fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting, especially in small children
  • Confusion, especially in older people

Bacterial pneumonia, which is the most common form, tends to be more serious than other types of pneumonia, with symptoms that require medical care. The symptoms of bacterial pneumonia can develop gradually or suddenly. Fever may rise as high as a dangerous 105 degrees F, with profuse sweating and rapidly increased breathing and pulse rate. Lips and nailbeds may have a bluish color due to lack of oxygen in the blood. A patient’s mental state may be confused or delirious.

The symptoms of viral pneumonia are similar to the flu: fever, a dry cough, headache, muscle pain and weakness. Within a day or two, the symptoms typically get worse with increasing cough, shortness of breath and muscle pain. There may be a high fever and there may be blueness of the lips.

Diagnosis

Sometimes pneumonia can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are so variable and are often very similar to those seen in a cold or influenza. To diagnose pneumonia and to try to identify the germ that is causing the illness, your health care provider will ask questions about your medical history, do a physical exam and run some tests. Your provider will listen to your lungs with a stethoscope. If you have pneumonia, your lungs may make crackling, bubbling and rumbling sounds when you inhale. If your doctor suspects you may have pneumonia, they will probably recommend some tests to confirm the diagnosis and learn more about your infection.

Treatment

Your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan. The goals of treatment are to cure the infection and prevent complications. If your pneumonia is caused by bacteria, you will be given an antibiotic. It is important to take the antibiotic as prescribed, which usually involves taking until the bottle is empty. Even though you will probably start to feel better in a couple of days, if you stop, you risk having the infection come back and increase the chances that the germs will be resistant to treatment in the future. Typical antibiotics do not work against viruses. If you have viral pneumonia, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication to treat it. Sometimes, symptom management such as drinking plenty of fluids, using a humidifier, and getting plenty of rest are all that is needed.

When to call a doctor

If you think you have symptoms of pneumonia, don’t wait for the disease to worsen before you seek care. Call your doctor. And see your doctor right away if you have difficulty breathing, develop a bluish color in your lips and fingertips, have chest pain, a high fever, or a cough with mucus that is severe or is getting worse. It’s especially important to get medical attention for pneumonia if you are in a high-risk group, including adults older than 65, children two years or younger, and people with an underlying health condition or weakened immune system. For some of these vulnerable individuals, pneumonia can quickly become a life-threatening condition.

Source:  CDC, NIH