When it’s a challenge just for your loved one to breathe, the relationship between bronchitis and ( ) may be the last thing on your mind as their caregiver.
However, to find the appropriate treatments, it’s essential to understand the link between . For older adults specifically and people with compromised immune systems, the two conditions can significantly impact their .
The and bronchioles are tubes inside the lungs in which . Bronchitis occurs when these tubes become inflamed or filled with mucus. Individuals with bronchitis may have difficulty breathing and display the following symptoms:
A hacking cough lasting five days or longer
(clear, white, yellow, or green in a )
Chills or shivering
Tenderness in the chest when coughing
Wheezing or whistling when breathing
Rattling sound on chest
Children and adults who have bronchitis usually do not have severe complications. Older adults, on the other hand, may have trouble recovering or experience complications.
Although almost all (95%) of all bronchitis start from a viral infection, not all cases are the same. For example, many cases of bronchitis stem from , , or consistent exposure to toxins.
Most cases of bronchitis last for short periods while others can linger for a lifetime. To appropriately diagnose bronchitis, a provider may require diagnostic tests such as , , and .
Bronchitis is categorized into two primary types of bronchitis: acute bronchitis and .
A “chest cold” or short-term bronchitis is also known as acute bronchitis. Acute bronchitis has a limited duration and is typically caused by a cold or flu. Out of the two major types of bronchitis, acute bronchitis is more common. for acute bronchitis include exposure to allergens, pollutants, or pathogens.
Every year, about 5% of the general population experiences a case of acute bronchitis, mostly during the flu season. The most common viruses responsible for acute bronchitis are the syncytial virus, parainfluenza, rhinovirus, and influenza virus A and B. Most of these cases often resolve on their own, without the use of any antibiotics or any need for medical treatments.
The less common type of bronchitis is called . Unlike acute bronchitis, which resolves fairly quickly, symptoms of may persist for months or years.
Symptoms like a , fatigue, and production can remain for a lifetime. These symptoms repeatedly flare up and die down, causing mucus within the airways, , and reduced which can all compromise a person’s ability to breathe in the long run.
Unlike acute bronchitis, most cases of are not caused by a virus or bacteria. Instead, is the of . Other environmental factors like , , and exposure to toxins can also cause .
third leading cause of disease-related death in the U.S. because the condition affects how well a person breathes. is a long-term progressive illness, meaning it lasts for a while and gets worse over time. is the
The symptoms of are very similar to those of , which may include:
Increased mucus in the chest
Difficulty breathing (), especially with activity
The two most common illnesses that fall under the category of are and .
Similar to , most illnesses under the category typically develop due to or exposure to pollutants that cause .
With least one of the following factors:, the swelling and mucus can make breathing challenging, limiting the air flowing in and out of the lungs. The drop in occurs because of at
Airways and tiny sacs throughout the lungs lose their elasticity and flexibility.
Walls between are damaged.
Airways become irritated, swollen, and inflamed. become thick and inflamed.
Excess mucus clogs the airways and limits
During the early stages of , there are few or no symptoms. As the condition progresses, the symptoms typically worsen and can impact your loved one’s health and .
The terms , , and are so closely related that many people use them interchangeably. Individuals with a diagnosis of usually have , , or both conditions.
There are two types of to look out for when it comes to your loved one, those that are restrictive and those that are .
Restrictive limits the amount of air an individual can breathe in (inhale).
prevents a person from releasing all the air from their lungs (exhale).
falls under the umbrella of because it’s an , that keeps individuals from exhaling the air within their lungs. Acute bronchitis, however, does not fall under the category of because the symptoms aren’t long-term and eventually resolve.
Furthermore, the illnesses that do fall under the category of can occur together, putting a higher burden on a person’s immune system and resources. For example, can occur with other such as:
Fortunately, and can be prevented. And with proper management, if your loved one gets diagnosed with , they can have an excellent .
Complications can occur with bronchitis or due to its effect on the lungs and other organs in the body. Both conditions can make it hard to breathe, resulting in an inadequate balance of oxygen and . This imbalance can increase the risk for bronchitis and and complications, such as:
Pneumothorax (collapsed lung)
Heart problems (atrial fibrillation, cor pulmonale, right-sided )
conditions are caused by impaired from damaged lungs, which can cause both short-term and long-term complications. Because of the increased health risks, it is vital that if your loved one does have – especially cases – follow their provider’s treatment recommendations.
and may include a mix of therapies, medications, and . These treatment plans may include the use of:
to open airways
Corticosteroids to reduce airway inflammation
Antibiotics to fight bacterial infections
Combination to clear airways and reduce inflammation.
Flu, Covid-19, and pneumonia (especially for older adults) reduce the risk for other respiratory diseases.
to improve .
for protects the organs and keeps a person active.
Surgeries like a or bullectomy to replace or repair damaged lung areas in cases of .
Quitting smoking and avoiding environmental are essential for preventing and reducing the for complications.
and are interconnected, with falling under the category of . Older adults have an for complications from and , therefore, prevention, identification, and treatment are the key to keeping them safe.
The primary way to prevent is to ensure you and your loved one do not smoke and stay away from as much as possible. However, once is diagnosed, ensuring healthy and preventing respiratory illnesses are the primary goals.
Ensuring that you and your loved one adhere to yearly recommended , maintaining hand hygiene, and avoiding breathing triggers can go a long way to keeping your loved one with healthy and safe.
Maria Tesoro-Morioka is a Licensed Registered Nurse in the mental health field for nearly 15 years.
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