- Sinus Infection & Bronchitis
- Real Answers with Dr. Lavin
- Understanding What Causes Bronchitis, and How to Prevent It
- Which home remedy is best for bronchitis?
- Urgent Care Navicent Health
- Sinusitis, Bronchitis, Acute Asthma Attacks
Sinus Infection & Bronchitis
Other treatments for sinusitis include:
- Allergy shots (immunotherapy) to help prevent the disease from returning
- Avoiding allergy triggers
- Nasal corticosteroid sprays and antihistamines to decrease swelling, especially if there are nasal polyps or allergies
Surgery to enlarge the sinus opening and drain the sinuses may also be needed. You mayo consider this procedure if:
- Your symptoms do not go away after 3 months of treatment.
- You have more than two or three episodes of acute sinusitis each year.
Most fungal sinus infections need surgery. Surgery to repair a deviated septum or nasal polyps may prevent the condition from returning.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine
Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, the airways that carry air to your lungs. It causes a cough that often brings up mucus. It can also cause shortness of breath, wheezing, a low fever, and chest tightness. There are two main types of bronchitis: acute and chronic.
Most cases of acute bronchitis get better within several days. But your cough can last for several weeks after the infection is gone.
The same viruses that cause colds and the flu often cause acute bronchitis. These viruses spread through the air when people cough, or though physical contact (for example, on unwashed hands). Being exposed to tobacco smoke, air pollution, dusts, vapors, and fumes can also cause acute bronchitis. Less often, bacteria can also cause acute bronchitis.
To diagnose acute bronchitis, your health care provider will ask about your symptoms and listen to your breathing. You may also have other tests.
Treatments include rest, fluids, and aspirin (for adults) or acetaminophen to treat fever. A humidifier or steam can also help. You may need inhaled medicine to open your airways if you are wheezing. Antibiotics won’t help if the cause is viral. You may get antibiotics if the cause is bacterial.
Get emergency medical help right away if you have one or more of these problems. They could be warning signs of something more serious, like meningitis:
- Fever over 102 F
- Sudden, severe pain in the face or head
- Double vision or trouble seeing
- Confusion or problems thinking clearly
- Swelling or redness around one or both eyes
- Stiff neck
- Shortness of breath
Bronchitis (a chest cold): You get it when the large tubes that carry air into your lungs become swollen and irritated. Telltale symptoms of this illness can include:
- A cough that could last 10 to 20 days
- A cough that produces green, yellow, or clear mucus
Most of the time, you don’t need to see a doctor for bronchitis. But call yours ASAP if you have any of these symptoms — you could have pneumonia:
- Fever above 100.4 F
- A cough that is not better after 7 to 10 days
- Unexplained weight loss
Get emergency care or call 911 for any of these symptoms:
- Chest pain or trouble breathing with your cough
- Coughing up blood
- A barking cough that makes it hard for you to talk or swallow
If you’re over 75 and have a cough that won’t stop, see your doctor. You could have bronchitis, even if you don’t have any other symptoms.
Ear infection : Colds, bronchitis, and sinus infections can keep fluid trapped in your ear behind your eardrum. When this happens, bacteria or viruses can grow and cause an infection.
Warning signs of an ear infection can include:
- Fullness or pressure in one or both ears
- Pain in one or both of them
- Fluid that drains from your ear
- Muffled hearing
See your doctor right away if you have a high fever or severe pain in your ear. Hacking and sneezing are normal when you have a cold. Other problems, like a high fever, aren’t.
If any of your symptoms concern you, put your mind at ease — call the doctor.
Real Answers with Dr. Lavin
The real confusion in the use of the terms bronchitis and sinusitis comes from the widely assumed meaning, namely that if you say the word bronchitis or the word sinusitis, you have proven you have a bacterial infection. But the truth is that bronchitis and sinusitis can be caused be either viruses or bacteria. If a virus infects your lung’s airways or sinuses, you have a viral bronchitis or sinusitis. If a bacteria infects either, it’s a bacterial bronchitis or sinusitis.
A major difference between any respiratory viral infection (except influenza) and any bacterial infection is that there is no antibiotic or medication that can decrease the impact of a viral illness, but regular antibiotics kill bacteria very well.
Now to the illnesses themselves. Bronchitis literally means, inflamed airways of the lungs. This can happen, as noted, as a result of either a viral or bacterial infection. It turns out that, with few exceptions, every time you get a cold, you have a viral bronchitis. After all, a cold is when the virus inflames the lining of the nose, throat, and lungs, and when the lungs get inflamed, you have a viral bronchitis. It’s the lung inflammation in a cold that causes the horrible experience of a cough. And you can’t really get your lungs inflamed without the airways being affected. So, all colds are bronchitis.
But that’s not what is meant when a doctor tells someone has bronchitis. When that happens, what is usually implied is that a cold has developed into something more complicated, that a bacterial infection has erupted.
Now, the question is, how does one tell if your child has a viral bronchitis (a cold) or a bacterial bronchitis?
It turns out this is very hard to tell, since both cause the same symptoms.
There are no findings on exam, or blood tests, or X-rays that can tell the difference.
At a certain point, the question really turns on how long your child has been ill, since typical cold symptoms last up to about 25 days, and symptoms persisting longer than that may be due to bacteria getting involved. Or, sometimes it is clear that the illness is getting much worse when it should be getting better. As you can see, this question is truly best answered by a judicious weighing of all the facts, more than a test.
The exact same discussion goes for sinusitis.
Literally the word simply means inflamed sinuses, that is sinus linings that become red, swollen, and make a lot of mucus. But the word is usually used as a code word to imply that someone has a bacterial infection and that antibiotics are needed and will cure the condition.
Unfortunately, as with bronchitis, most sinusitis situations are caused by infections with viruses.
In fact, a cold can be truly thought of as a viral sinusitis. A cold is a situation where a virus attacks the lining of the airways. That attack destroys the linings of the nose and its sinuses, throat, and lung. This is physically no different than a shallow burn. The viral burn in the sinuses cause the lining to get very red, swollen, and make loads of mucus. This is clearly a sinusitis.
But, as noted above, viruses are not killed or slowed by antibiotics, and antibiotics do nothing to heal the burn created by the virus. So if your child’s sinus infection is due to a virus, an antibiotic offers no help, only harm from side effects.
And, as with bronchitis, X-rays and CT scans and MRI’s do not help. These imaging technologies cannot tell the difference between mucus from a virus and pus from bacteria.
So once again ,the distinction relies on the course of illness. Colds typically last 1-3 weeks. So, unless some unusual experiences are noted, someone with a runny nose, fever, achy and feeling ill, for less than 10 days almost certainly has a viral infection, and antibiotics will not help.
1. Everyone gets colds. These are viral infections that cannot be helped in any way by antibiotics.
2. Bronchitis and sinusitis are terms broadly used to imply that a person’s illness has advanced beyond a cold to a bacterial infection that antibiotics could help.
3. If someone has been ill with runny nose, fever, cough, and feeling achy and ill for less than 10 days, unless some other unusual symptoms are present, it is very, very likely the illness is a viral infection, and antibiotics will not work. These viral infections can cause some symptoms, especially cough, to last well beyond 10 days, often for 3-4 weeks!
4. So the words bronchitis and sinusitis turn out not to mean one has a bacterial infection, only the course of the illness can determine that.
5. We at Advanced Pediatrics are happy to help you determine if your child’s runny nose, cough, or such illness is typical for a viral infection, or if other signs have appeared to suggest bacteria are now involved. This will help determine if an antibiotic would help or hurt the situation.
To your health,
Dr. Arthur Lavin
Understanding What Causes Bronchitis, and How to Prevent It
Acute bronchitis is caused by an underlying viral or bacterial infection, which means it’s often accompanied by symptoms of the cold or flu. Thinkstock
What causes the dry coughing, extra mucus, and other cold symptoms you’ll suffer when you get a case of acute bronchitis? Bronchitis is inflammation of the lining of your bronchial tubes, which are the airways that carry oxygen to and from your lungs. But it’s either a viral or bacterial infection that sets the wheels in motion that result in those symptoms.
“The majority of acute bronchitis in kids and adults is caused by a viral infection,” explains Fernando Holguin, MD, associate professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and director of the asthma clinical research program at the Center for Lungs and Breathing at University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora. Research suggests that majority is between 85 and 95 percent of all cases of acute bronchitis. (1)
The illness typically improves in about 3 to 10 days and has no lasting effects, though a cough may linger for weeks after the infection has ended. But for people who have weaker immune systems, such as young children, the elderly, or those who have an illness like cancer or a health condition like as diabetes, there is a risk that acute bronchitis may develop into a more severe illness, such as pneumonia.
The rest of this article will focus on what causes acute bronchitis and how to prevent it. But it’s important to note that the other type of bronchitis, chronic bronchitis, is a long-term, serious condition that, similar to acute bronchitis, is caused by inflamed bronchial tubes that produce a lot of mucus, making it difficult to breath.
The difference in chronic bronchitis is that the inflammation is caused by long-term exposure to industrial dust, fumes in the workplace, air pollution, secondhand smoke, other air pollutants, long-term uncontrolled asthma, or frequent childhood respiratory infections — and the inflammation is constant and does not go away.
When viruses or bacteria infect the already-inflamed bronchial tubes in people with chronic bronchitis, those individuals can experience periods when symptoms become even worse than usual. Early diagnosis and treatment, along with behavior changes (such as quitting smoking) can improve daily management of symptoms of chronic bronchitis, but the chance of the condition going away completely is low, especially for those who have severe cases.
But when it comes to acute bronchitis, if the same types of infections that cause the cold and flu — viral and bacterial ones — are to blame, why do some infections turn into acute bronchitis? Here’s what you need to know, and some tips for avoiding and warding off a case of acute bronchitis.
Which home remedy is best for bronchitis?
Despite clear evidence that antibiotics are ineffective for the treatment of acute bronchitis, a 2014 study showed the rate of prescribing them for the condition was still 71 percent.
Luckily, there are home remedies that can help ease acute and chronic bronchitis.
Using a humidifier
Share on PinterestWarm drinks such as tea may make coughing easier and the use of ginger in tea is recommended as it is an anti-inflammatory.
Keeping the air in the home or workplace moist helps to loosen mucus in the airways and reduce coughing. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommend a cool-mist humidifier or steam vaporizer to do this.
A 2014 study indicates that long-term humidification therapy is a cost-effective treatment for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or bronchiectasis. However, researchers cautioned that more investigation was necessary.
COPD is an umbrella term for a number of lung conditions including bronchitis and bronchiectasis, which is a condition where the airways become abnormally wide.
If a person with one of these conditions uses a humidifier, it should be regularly cleaned, according to the manufacturer’s guidelines, to kill bacteria and other pathogens that make symptoms worse.
Drinking warm liquids
Warm water, tea, and other hot drinks help to thin mucus, making coughing easier.
A 2008 study suggests that hot beverages can provide “immediate and sustained relief from symptoms of a runny nose, cough, sneezing, sore throat, chilliness, and tiredness”.
Ginger tea may also help bronchitis symptoms, as ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory.
Wearing a face mask in cold weather
Being hit by sudden cold air can increase a cough. Covering up the mouth and nose before going outside in cold weather can help to reduce coughing and shortness of breath. Cold-air face masks are available, or the mouth can be covered with a scarf or other item of clothing.
Honey is often used as a natural remedy for a cough, and it is said to have both antiviral and antibacterial properties.
Research into the effectiveness of honey for respiratory tract infections indicates it may be an effective home treatment.
A 2007 study looked at how well dark honey worked for children with bronchitis. While the children who took the honey experienced greater symptom relief than those taking the placebo, the clinical benefit was small. Honey should not be given to children under 1 year.
Pursed-lip breathing techniques
A breathing technique known as pursed-lip breathing may benefit people with bronchitis, as well as those with COPD.
The COPD Foundation advise that this technique helps people breathe easier by:
- keeping airways open longer
- slowing down breathing
- helping the lungs eliminate stale, trapped air
- improving the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide
- increasing the time that can be spent on certain activities
Pursed-lip breathing involves inhaling through the nose for 2 seconds, before puckering the lips and exhaling slowly through the mouth for 4 to 6 seconds.
Share on PinterestEssential oils such as eucalyptus may help to reduce airway inflammation.
Many people with bronchitis or COPD use essential oils to ease symptoms, particularly inflammation and breathing difficulties.
Some research suggests airway inflammation can be reduced by using myrtol, eucalyptus oil, or orange oil, with myrtol oil showing additional benefits against inflammation.
An animal study also found that oil from the flower Zataria multiflora reduced inflammation in guinea pigs with COPD.
Other essential oils which may help ease the breathing difficulties associated with bronchitis include:
- tea tree
Essential oils can be inhaled directly or used in a diffuser. Never take essential oils internally or apply them directly to the skin. To use on the skin, mix them with a carrier oil, such as mineral oil or sweet almond oil. Usually, it is 3-5 drops per 1 ounce of carrier oil.
Ginseng is a popular herbal remedy extracted from the fleshy roots of various slow-growing perennial plants.
In some research, ginseng extract was found to reduce the number of bacteria in the lungs of people with chronic bronchitis, who were having an attack of acute bronchitis.
Ginseng also has anti-inflammatory qualities, which may help it quell inflammation in the bronchial tubes.
This supplement is a modified version of the amino acid cysteine. It may help to reduce both the frequency and severity of coughing. NAC may also thin the mucus in the bronchi, allowing it to be eliminated from the body more easily.
An analysis of 13 studies on NAC for chronic bronchitis or COPD suggests that people with chronic bronchitis and an airway obstruction benefit from 1,200 milligrams (mg) per day. Those with bronchitis without an airway obstruction see benefits from a regular dose of 600 mg daily.
According to the Vitamin D Council, many studies indicate that people who have low levels of the vitamin are more prone to respiratory infections, including COPD.
Other research suggests that those who have high vitamin D levels experience shorter bouts of respiratory infections or milder symptoms.
However, the evidence is mixed when it comes to taking vitamin D to treat respiratory infections. Nonetheless, vitamin D is important for overall health and supplementation is a low-risk approach to bronchitis treatment.
If you choose to use supplements, essential oils, or herbs, be aware that these are not monitored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety, quality, purity, or packaging. Choose to buy from a company you trust.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Whether or not you can believe it, cold and flu season are already in full swing – even though cold season typically peaks in January, while flu season is not until February.
This year, however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting that this is the earliest start to flu season since 2003. Other medical websites mapping cold and flu activity are showing moderate to severe activity in most states.
Unfortunately, some cold and flu illnesses can develop into more severe (not to mention prolonged) conditions including bronchitis, pneumonia or sinus/ear infections. Bronchitis is of particular concern as it can develop into pneumonia or the increasingly common Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of your bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from your lungs. Bronchitis may be either acute or chronic. Acute bronchitis is more common, of shorter duration and often results from a cold (90 percent of cases are viral in origin), while chronic bronchitis lasts at least 3 months and is often due to smoking.
The symptoms of bronchitis may be similar to the flu: cough, fatigue, fever or chills – but may also include chest discomfort and the production of mucus. If your cough lasts more than three weeks, produces discolored mucus or blood, or causes wheezing or shortness of breath, be sure to see your physician.
Fortunately, there are some relatively simple steps you can take to help reduce both your risk for developing bronchitis and the duration of the illness.
First, if you are a smoker, stop immediately. Try to avoid lung irritants of any type, including air pollution, paint, household cleaners or dust from things like coal or concrete.
Use a humidifier whenever possible, because warm, moist air can help relieve coughs and loosen mucus in your airways.
Being that many cases of bronchitis result from flu virus, make sure to get your annual flu vaccination.
Finally, be vigilant about washing your hands or using a hand sanitizer during cold and flu season.
If you suffer from multiple bouts of bronchitis, this may indicate an underlying condition like chronic bronchitis, asthma, cystic fibrosis or tuberculosis, just to name a few. And again, if your symptoms – especially cough – last more than three weeks or cause wheezing or shortness of breath, make an appointment to see your doctor.
Dr. David B. Samadi is the Vice Chairman of the Department of Urology and Chief of Robotics and Minimally Invasive Surgery at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. He is a board-certified urologist, specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of urological disease, with a focus on robotic prostate cancer treatments. To learn more, visit his websites RoboticOncology.com and SMART-surgery.com. Find Dr. Samadi on Facebook.
Sinusitis, Bronchitis, Acute Asthma Attacks
Breathing is a necessary function for life; breathing well is necessary for comfort and well-being. In the busy daily lives, we all lead, there is a tendency sometimes to try to pass off respiratory problems as “just a cold” or “just an allergy”. Ignoring symptoms that are meant to tell us that we may be suffering from sinusitis, bronchitis or an acute asthma attack can be dangerous and harmful to others as some of these conditions are contagious. Sinusitis, bronchitis, and acute asthma attacks are related problems but remain separate medically, which is one of the reasons to seek professional care for an early diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Sinusitis is the medical term referring to swollen or inflamed tissue lining in the sinuses. The space in the sinuses typically contains only air, but when an inflammation is present, it can fill with fluid. This provides a great place for germs and infection to flourish.
The symptoms of sinusitis can include:
- Pain or pressure around nose and eyes
- Elevated temperature
- Congestion in the nasal passages
A cold is often the start of sinusitis. Once inflammation and blockage of sinusitis set in, proper treatment depend on a medical professional identifying which of four types/levels of the condition is present. Appropriate treatment results in a variety of benefits, both in terms of immediate comfort and of future sinus health. Results of proper care will include:
- Clearing of the sinuses and nasal passage
- Relieving pressure and pain around the sinuses
- Eliminating infection
- Preventing scarring of the tissue and permanent tissue damage
As many people have discovered through experience, sinusitis can lead to bronchitis, as the two problems share the same germs. The bronchial disease involves inflammation of the mucous membrane in the bronchial passages or airways. Bronchitis takes two forms, acute and chronic. Of the two, chronic can be the more serious, typically lasting for several months in sequential years. Less concerning and shorter-lasting, acute bronchitis brings patients to urgent care during any season and can usually be successfully treated in a matter of a few weeks.
Symptoms of acute bronchitis may include:
- Slight fever
- Shortness of breath
- Dry cough
- Tightness of chest
People with acute bronchitis should stay out of public contacts such as school or work for several days as their condition is considered to be contagious. Over-the-counter medication may help alleviate symptoms during that period, but a visit to urgent care may be necessary for diagnosis and more effective medications.
Chronic bronchitis is a more serious disease and requires professional treatment. More common among smokers, its symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Increased fatigue
- Coughing that worsens and produces green/yellow mucous
- Tightness or pain in the chest
- Swollen lower extremities
With this chronic form of the disease, the lungs and airways are always inflamed and can more readily become infected. Immediate and on-going treatment is necessary to maintain control of the condition that can have serious long-term implications.
Another chronic respiratory condition often-requiring urgent care is asthma. Frequent shortness of breath or just hearing a chest wheeze or whistle in conjunction with breathing can be an indication of this serious illness. Asthma creates inflammation of the bronchial tubes, the route through which air flows in and out of your lungs, thus restricting the volume of air in or out with each breath.
Asthma can be triggered by a variety of things. Allergic reactions to airborne particles are a common source of asthma attacks. Pollutants such as chemicals in the air often induce asthma at work sites. Many asthmatics’ conditions are aggravated by exercise. Regardless of what sets off an attack, the symptoms remain the same, including:
- Audible wheezing
- Tightness in the chest
- Shortness of breath
Restriction of one’s ability to breathe is a source of great stress, both to the patient himself and to family and friends who watch the struggle to breathe. The varieties of effective medications and breathing devices now available have brought a measure of relief to the asthmatic community, but asthma remains a serious respiratory disease.
Attacks can come on suddenly and quickly become life threatening. Anyone with asthma should always be prepared for an emergency. Friends and family should know the measures to be taken in the event you cannot help yourself. Locations of urgent care facilities should be noted so that no delays occur in seeking immediate treatment.
Listening to Your Breath
Our breath allows us to live; breathing well allows us to live well. Learning to listen to our bodies through the symptoms they present to us is an important piece of the picture of good health. All of the breathing problems we have discussed here affect our lives to some degree, and appropriate and timely responses to our symptoms can be found in the urgent care facility. Is it a cold? Alternatively, is it something more, such as sinusitis, bronchitis, or an acute asthma attack? A timely visit to urgent care can speed a cure and prevent something more serious from affecting your ability to breathe.
Why do my colds almost always turn into bronchitis or a sinus infection or both? Could I have a weakness because of repeated infections or am I just unlucky? Also, I almost always end up on an antibiotic – often a Z-pack – and I get better. I have friends who advise me to wait the infection out and not take antibiotics (because of antibiotic resistance.) Are they right?
Most healthy adults get a head cold at least once a year. The common cold is caused by one of more than 100 viruses that are almost always present in the environment. Most colds go away within three to 10 days, but everyone remembers the lingering and progressive upper respiratory infection that interferes with their busy lives. When a cold lasts more than a week or causes fever, cough or pain, people tend to seek medical attention.
Factors that can increase your chances of getting a cold include your age, a weakened immune system (due to a medical condition), medications, smoking, poor sleep, malnutrition and time of the year. (We’re most susceptible in fall and winter because of the school cycle and more time spent indoors).
Everyone gets exposed to common cold viruses but some people tend to get sick more often or have more symptoms. This depends on the frequency or amount of the exposure, the quality of their immune system at the time of the exposure and how they manage it once they are sick. Your colds turn into bronchitis or sinusitis because your sinuses or your airways are more vulnerable than other parts of your respiratory tract. Others get ear infections and/or tonsillitis.
Most viral infections do go away on their own and do not cause permanent damage. If you are being cared for by a primary care physician, you should only receive an antibiotic if your cold symptoms are a result of a bacterial infection. Again, most colds are from viruses and do not need antibiotics; however, a viral infection can progress to a bacterial infection and antibiotics might be necessary. Antibiotics are the key to treating bacterial infections but they come with a cost.
If you use a Z-pack every time you get a cold, you are at risk for side effects, which can be worse than the original cold symptoms. Repeated antibiotic use may also eventually kill off the usual bacteria that make you sick and breed a new generation of bacteria, which has mutated and has become potentially more difficult to treat. This is what we refer to as antibiotic resistance.
Do the best you can to manage your cold symptoms early so that you decrease the possibility of developing a secondary bacterial infection. Treatments that encourage hydration, rest and drainage are the cornerstones for getting better. As a primary care physician, I will always encourage people to seek advice from their own physicians. Everyone’s situation is unique. “Waiting it out” can be fine for some, but harmful to others.
Teresa A. Saris, M.D., specializes in internal medicine and wellness care and is on staff at Paoli, Bryn Mawr and Lankenau Hospitals. She is a physician at Total Access Medicine in St. Davids. Visit www.totalaccessmedicine.com.
This column is intended to provide useful health information to the general public. All materials are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for medical diagnosis, advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Readers should consults their own physicians for any specific health issues.