You wake up one morning and you have a stuffy nose and a very sore throat, so you automatically realize that you’re about to catch a cold. However, this is no ordinary cold, because the viruses that have so rudely invaded your respiratory tract have made the decision to take over more territory than normal. [...]
Acute bronchitis is an inflammation of the mucous membranes lining the large bronchi and usually the trachea, and is often associated with a severe cold, pharyngitis, or laryngitis. Generally not a serious problem, it lasts but a few days. Should it persist or there be frequent attacks, the membranes may be damaged, leading to chronic bronchitis.
A deep, productive cough, with yellowish sputum, forms the major symptom. Pain, deep to the breastbone, is aggravated by coughing. A fever may be presented. Should the mucus and pus be difficult to cough up, breathing may be difficult.
In chronic bronchitis a smoldering infection makes the walls of the air passageways swollen and inflamed. The outflow of more mucus from an increased number of mucous glands, along with a breakdown of the clearing mechanism of the cilia which normally propel the mucus upward toward the throat, results in coughing and raising of much mucus or phlegm. Repeated infections damage the walls of the bronchial and bronchioles, causing them to narrow. Because of the excess mucus plus the narrowing, air has difficulty entering and leaving the air sacs, causing breathlessness and wheezing.
Things that you can do
Warm, humid atmospheres will sooth the inflamed membranes. If a cough medicine is used, it should not completely suppress the cough, but liquefy the secretions to make it easier to cough them up and clear the air passages. Should the pain, and cough not improve in two or three days, see your physician.
Things your physician can do
To relieve the difficulty in breathing, he may order an inhalant to dilate your air passages. He may also prescribe a stronger cough medicine, if he thinks wise, and possibly an antibiotic if it appears you have a secondary bacterial infection.