It is quite common to get a seasonal cough or cold but when it becomes recurrent, you might have to get checked for other possible conditions. Since the symptoms of most respiratory infections are quite similar, it can get difficult to differentiate between some of them – such as common cold and bronchitis.
What is bronchitis?
Bronchitis is a respiratory condition where the tiny air carrying tubes of the lungs get inflamed and start producing too much mucus. Bronchitis can be of two types; acute and chronic. Acute bronchitis is usually due to a viral infection and can last for 10 to 14 days whereas chronic bronchitis can persist for three months to two years and mostly occurs due to a respiratory infection.
What are the symptoms of bronchitis?
The most common symptoms of bronchitis are:
- Frequent cough with mucus production
- Low-grade fever
- Wheezing sound on breathing (can be absent in some people)
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the chest (can be absent in some people)
How is bronchitis different from a common cold?
A common cold usually occurs due to a viral infection that affects the upper respiratory tract and, therefore, shows symptoms in the nose and throat. While common cold caused by a virus can result in acute bronchitis, chronic bronchitis either occurs due to chronic smoking or due to inhalation of toxic chemicals or air pollution.
The most common symptoms of a common cold include runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, cough without mucus and sometimes a low-grade fever. A person with bronchitis would not present with a runny nose and would have a cough with mucus.
The common cold does not require any medication as it goes away in a few days with extra rest and plenty of fluids. However, in some cases of bronchitis, the person may require medical treatment to get better.
What is the treatment for bronchitis?
Acute bronchitis may not require any medication until the person has a bacterial infection along with it. Bronchitis alone gets cured on its own within a week or 10 days. Over-the-counter drugs such as paracetamol can be used to relieve the symptoms of acute bronchitis (such as fever).
In the case of chronic bronchitis, the patient would require antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs (to reduce the inflammation), bronchodilators (to relax the airway) and lots of fluids. The patient also needs to stay away from all forms of smoke.
For more information, read our article on Bronchitis.
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