If you have bronchitis, there are steps you can take to help yourself:
See your doctor regularly and take all of your medicines as prescribed. Also, talk with your doctor about getting a yearly flu shot and a pneumonia vaccine. If you have chronic bronchitis, you may benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation (PR). PR is a broad program that helps improve the well-being of people who have chronic (ongoing) breathing problems.
Quitting smoking is the first and most essential step in treating chronic bronchitis. Once you stop smoking, your lung function may stabilize and even improve slightly, eventually declining at only about the same rate as nonsmokers in the same age group. No one with bronchitis should smoke, and smokers who live or work around a person with chronic bronchitis should make every effort to quit.
Protecting Against Respiratory Infections
Protection against other respiratory infections is also important. Since most AECBs are caused by carrying viruses from the infected persons hands to an object like a paper, a plate or a cup, both avoidance of such objects when handled by someone with a cold and hand washing thoroughly and often is a simple way to avoid infections.
People with chronic bronchitis should ask their doctor about yearly flu shots. Another important vaccination is the pneumococcal vaccine, which protects against the major bacterium that causes pneumonia. The vaccine remains effective for years.
Breathing exercises can be important. People who have chronic bronchitis often breathe fast. Discuss with your doctor about a breathing method called pursed-lip breathing. This method decreases how often you take breaths, and it helps keep your airways open longer. This allows more air to flow in and out of your lungs so you can be more physically active.
To do pursed-lip breathing, you breathe in through your nostrils. Then you slowly breathe out through slightly pursed lips, as if you’re blowing out a candle. You exhale two to three times longer than you inhale. Some people find it helpful to count to two while inhaling and to four or six while exhaling.
Some practitioners believe that the use of an incentive spirometer for 15 minutes twice a day may also be helpful in strengthening breathing muscles and loosening mucus but this is quite controversial. This is a small hand-held device that contains a breathing gauge. The user exhales forcefully through the tube, using the pressure of the exhalation to raise the gauge to the highest level possible.
The Home Environment
To minimize the amount of contaminants in the home:
- Ventilate by keeping windows open (weather and air pollution permitting).
- Use exhaust fans for stoves and vents for furnaces.
- Keep fireplace flues open.
- If a wood-burning stove or fireplace is in use, make sure it is well-ventilated and meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s safety standards.
- Burn pressed wood products labeled “exterior grade” since they contain the least amount of pollutants from resins.
- Have furnaces and chimneys inspected and cleaned yearly if used heavily.
- Eliminate molds and mildews stemming from household water damage.
Other measures you can take include:
- Try to stay out of very hot or cold weather. When it’s very cold or windy, cover your nose with a scarf. When it’s humid, try to stay in air-conditioned places. This can make breathing easier.
- Avoid taking tranquilizers, sedatives, or other drugs that may slow down breathing without your physician’s approval.
- As much as possible, avoid exposure to air-borne irritants such as hair sprays and any aerosol products, paint sprayers, and insecticides.