Bronchitis: Waiting is the best medicine

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Waiting is the best medicine

Everyone has experienced the stinging sensation when breathing and the sometimes painful cough. Especially in winter time, diseases of the respiratory tract occur increasingly and barking coughs can be heard from the waiting rooms of the doctor's offices. Many patients come to their doctor with bronchitis.

Bronchitis, i.e. inflammation of the bronchial mucosa, either occurs acute or is chronic. In acute bronchitis, viruses are mostly the trigger for the inflammation of the respiratory tract or the bronchi and this disease is one of the most common reasons why a doctor is consulted in winter. Very often, acute bronchitis is the result of a cold that first spread to the nasopharynx and then migrated deeper into the body. The causative agents of acute bronchitis are transmitted by the smallest drops when sneezing, coughing or speaking (droplet infection) or by smear infection on the hands.

In addition to cough, an increased mucus production, fever is also a common symptom. It is therefore not always possible to determine immediately whether you have contracted bronchitis. If the trachea is also affected, doctors speak of acute tracheobronchitis, which is the case for most patients. "Every adult has acute bronchitis once or twice a year," estimates Andreas Hellmann, chairman of the Federal Association of Pneumologists (BdP) in Heidenheim (Baden-Württemberg).

Smokers are more likely to suffer from chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis affects smokers in particular, which is formed as a result of cigarette smoke and its ingredients, but also through other irritants. Asthma can also promote bronchitis. But what actually happens when the bronchi are attacked? First and foremost, the viruses interfere with the functioning of the respiratory tract. "The viruses can damage the cilia, for example, limit their stroke rate," explains Ludger Klimek from the German Society for Otorhinolaryngology.

The secretion becomes sticky and viscous within the bronchi, partial areas swell or cramp. The excretions are only carried away poorly, which is experienced as an unpleasant irritation and leads to coughing. "Usually the cough is dry at first, without expectoration," explains Heidrun Holstein, a medical doctor at the Baden-Württemberg consumer center. After two to three days, the viscous mucus slowly begins to dissolve and is transported out of the bronchi via the cough. "The infection usually lasts about 14 days and then heals without doing anything," says Hellmann. However, if the symptoms are too severe, treatment of the symptoms should be considered to provide airway relief. Especially at night while sleeping, a constant, painful cough is particularly uncomfortable. Inhaling with chamomile or saline before going to bed can provide relief.

Home remedies for coughs such as honey, onion stock or salty soups also have a long tradition in treating bronchitis. If that is not enough, cough suppressants can bring temporary relaxation. “However, you should never completely stop the cough. The mucus has to get out of the body, ”explains Holstein. Drinking water or tea properly helps liquefy the mucus. Viruses are not always the cause of bronchial disease. Every tenth acute bronchitis is not caused by viruses, but by bacteria, according to Hellmann "The signs of this are high fever, purulent or bad-smelling or bad-tasting sputum." If these symptoms occur, patients should see a doctor. A throat swab or a blood test can be used to determine whether bacteria are the cause. If this is the case, an antibiotic is usually prescribed immediately. If symptoms persist and are particularly severe, X-rays may also have to be used to rule out pneumonia. (fr)

Image: Sigrid Rossmann /

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