Bronchitus 101

Time for yet another one of my “I’m sick and have no health insurance, please help me” threads. (As always, Moe exercises great caution to refrain from turning this into a GD or pit thread about the f$$ked up Health care system in the states).

I got a cold about 2 weeks ago, peaked out actually 2 weeks tomorrow. I self treated it with my usual combo of zinc, echinachea, and mega-doses of vitamin C, and I seemed to get better fairly rapidly after that. However, about 3-4 days passed the peak, when I was feeling about 95%, a lingering cough was still apparent, and it has gotten gradually worse since. Tonight I have been coughing violently, certainly the worst night in the passed week and a half. There is also a constant sore spot in my chest.

This leads me to believe I have bronchitus. Damn!

I wanted to say “bronchial infection”, which leads me to my first question:

  1. Is “bronchitus” just another word for “infection” of that area? and if not, what exactly is bronchitus?

  2. What exactly is going on with me based on my description of my symptoms?

  3. Whatever it is, will it go away on its own? Will my body’s natural defenses eventually be victorious against it?

  4. What can I do without going to a doctor? If it’s an infection do I need antibiotics?

  5. Are there any OTC antibiotic-like products I can take? Any vitamins or supplements that can strengthen my body’s natural defenses? A friend of mine told me that Goldenseal acts as an antibiotic. Now, as she is someone deeply involved in every new age practice from Taro to astrology to Raeki to astral travelling to etc., I take everything she says with a huge chunk of salt, but goldenseal is a fairly popular product in healthfood stores, and it is often paired with echinachea, for which there is strong evidence in support of its efficacy. So what’s the dope on that?

  6. Anything else I should know about bronchitus, infections, my body’s defenses (or lack thereof), treatments, other?

I’m coughing my friggin head off, and it’s driving me crazy!!! HELP!!! Pl… ::cough, choke, gasp:: PLEASE!!! ::thump, thump, roll::

(we need a rolling head sad emoticon, no?)

I had brochitis last Christmas, with the same symptoms as you, and I wound up going to the local clinic and paying $100 out of pocket for the doctor and $35 for the prescription (antibiotics) and it was the best $135 ever spent.

It sure beat coughing up blood…

IANAD, but until fairly recently I was a heavy smoker, and had it regularly:

The “itis” part of the word means “inflamation.”

e.g. tonsolitis = inflamation of the tonsils, appendicitis = inflamation of the appendix.

Bronchitis = inflamation of the bronchioles (bronchial tubes/tree) which carry the air to your lungs.

Ideally, you need antibiotics.

If this really isn’t possible: inhale camomile tea, if you have a temperature take an antipyretic (OTC, don’t know brand names for the US, but your pharmacist will know).

Drink lots of tea (camomile is good), wrap up warm (pullover, scarf, leggings/tracksuit bottoms) and stay tucked up in bed. The more you sweat the better.

If you smoke, try not to!

Get well soon. :slight_smile:

Trabi is correct, Bronchitis is an inflamation of the bronchi. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have a bacterial infection, the only reason you would need antibiotics. It could be a viral infection, antibiotics would be of no value in that case. Smoking can cause chronic bronchitis, often leading to othe more serious damage. Even over use or abuse such as screaming for hours at a sporting event, or vigorous exercise in below zero weather.
Treatment is different for different causes.
I’m not going to suggest any treatment; I’m not a physican. Without being examined or at least questioned more closely about your symptoms, diagnosis could be difficult
Go to a free clinic or to Public Health if you can’t afford a regular doctor.

picunurse, I stand corrected RE antibiotics. Amend my former statement to “ideally, you need to see a doctor…”!

Standing in a really hot steamy shower will help clear you up temporarily.

If you’re coughing so hard you can’t sleep, take something for the cough (watch out for “expectorant” ingredients found in many cough syrups – they actually make you cough more). Drink lots of liquids, eat healthily, get plenty of sleep.

IANAD, but where I went to college, bronchitis would run wild in the cold, damp winters. This is the advice we’d get, along with “stay away from other people” (lol) and a pat on the back.

As a person who had bronchitis twice last winter I found that cough medicine did absolutely no good. I had never had it before last year and I ended up leaving it until I could barely breathe. I now have 2 inhalers. One is antibiotic and the other is to clear the bronchi in a hurry.

Hot steamy showers helped for a short amount of time. Once I got my inhalers, it was cleared up within a few days. The second time it barely lasted a week.

My advice would be to see a doctor. If you leave it too long, it could very well end up being pneumonia.

Most cases of bronchitis (more than 95% of them anyway) do not need antibiotics, as they’re not caused by bacteria.

But checking with your doc is the best way to ensure a proper diagnosis. The cough could be from bronchitis, sinusitis, or pneumonia, among many other possibilities. And some of the possibilities could need antibiotics.


What Lady said… I had similar symptoms and was diagnosed with pnumonia. I never felt all that bad, I just had a light cough for about a month. I didn’t feel sick, I just didn’t feel great and the cough wasn’t bad enough to make me want to go to a doctor. Finally after a month of coughing my wife, cow-erkers, and boss finally all said GO TO THE DOCTOR! He checked me out and showed me the x-rays and said ‘this was about to get much worse, another three or four days and you would have been looking at a week in the hospital’. A week worth of steroids, antibiotics, nasal sprays, and Discovery Channel** and I’m still not all well so I’m probably going back. Hopefully your luck is better than mine.

** Self prescribed.

OK, a couple of things:

First, I started this thread last night after a long day working outdoors in crappy rainy weather, so perhaps it was those conditions that allowed whatever’s going on with me to build to the violent cough I had last night. I drank some echinachea tea and took some Dextromethorphan/Guifesin 'Tussin last night to help me get to sleep, and I feel much better today. The cough is still there though, and I honestly don’t know what to think, since over the last 2 weeks there have seemed to be good days and bad days. I don’t know what to conclude from the fact that I’m suddenly not feeling all that bad at all.

Still, I will continue to drink tea, steam shower, and other stuff mentioned here to treat it until it is fully gone.

Second, as always with threads of this nature, I’m getting a lot of “go to the doctor” responses, and for good reason of course. No one should feel totally comfortable giving medical advice here. So can we take ME out of it for a moment. I started this thread both to get advice on how to get better, and also to learn all about the wonders of bronchitus, infections, and the human body.

Does a healthy person have the natural defenses to fight off a bacterial infection on its own, or are antibiotics absolutely required for most such infections? If the latter, why do viral infections just go away on their own, while bacterial ones don’t?

QTM could you tell me more on how exactly a doctor makes a diagnosis? (w/o sending me to medical school i.e.). I mean, as far as I can recall, whenever I’ve gone to a doctor as a kid with cold and flu-like symptoms he really has never done much more than listen to my chest, look around inside my mouth and ears, and listen to my description of my own symptoms. I’ve rarely ever had a chest x-ray, or some other objective test taken, that I can remember. Yet I’ve often been given antibiotics. I have little doubt that he was often simply acting from the old school of “give the patient antibiotics for piece of mind, keep him happy, regardless of whether or not they are necessary”. But how does a doctor positively assess whether a patient has an infection or not, where it is, and whether it’s viral or bacterial?

Oh, and how does cold damp winters affect things? Is it humidity that’s bad? I would think no, since steam showers = good. Is it the cold? or is it the combo? and whatever it is, why is it bad? Does it lead to infection, or simply exacerbate an existing infection? or does it have to do with bronchitus (inflammation, right?), and thus not with an infection at all?

Oh yeah, and what exactly is pneumonia? How is that diagnosed? how about sinusitus? am I getting annoying yet?

Sure it’s a lot of questions, but just think how much good you’ll be doing for future dopers with these questions by putting all of this info into one easily digestible, quite searchable thread. :wink:

And seriously, I do appreciate it.

Here’s a little info packet on bronchitis:

I’m not sure but I think processing cold, damp air may be more irritating to the lungs than processing cold, dry air. I know that high moisture content makes cold feel colder. Most things I’ve read about it associates Bronchitis with cold, damp conditions. (and pollution).