If you have bronchitis, there are many steps you can take to manage symptoms and care for yourself:
To manage chronic bronchitis or reduce the risk of acute bronchitis, it is important to see your doctor regularly and take all medications as prescribed. You should also speak with your doctor about getting an annual flu shot and pneumonia vaccine. If you have chronic bronchitis, you may benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation. Pulmonary rehabilitation is a program that helps to improve the well-being of people who have chronic breathing problems by teaching them techniques that improve breathing ability.
Quitting smoking is the most effective way to treat chronic bronchitis. Once you quit smoking, your lung function may stabilize or even slightly improve. Going forward, it will decline at only about the same rate as nonsmokers within 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.
Protect Against Respiratory Infections
Protecting against other respiratory infections is also important. Since most bronchitis is caused by viruses transmitted through contact with a contaminated object or person, it is important to take precautions. If you have bronchitis, you should wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, and avoid areas or items that have been contaminated by someone who is ill.
People with chronic bronchitis should ask their doctor about annual flu shots, which may reduce their risk of illness. Another important vaccination for bronchitis sufferers is the pneumococcal vaccine, which helps to prevent pneumonia. The pneumococcal vaccine remains effective for years.
Breathing exercises can be a useful way to manage bronchitis. Patients with chronic bronchitis often take quick, shallow breaths. Your physician may recommend a breathing method called pursed-lip breathing. This method decreases the frequency and speed of breaths and keeps airways open longer. This allows more air to flow in and out of the lungs, which can increase a patient’s ability to be physically active.
There are two steps to pursed-lip breathing. First, the patient breathes in through the nostrils. Then, the patient slowly breathes out through slightly-pursed lips. The exhale is similar to blowing out a candle. The exercise works best if you exhale two to three times longer than you inhale, so some people find it helpful to count to two while inhaling and to four or six while exhaling.
Some doctors believe that the use of an incentive spirometer for 15 minutes every morning and night may also be helpful in strengthening breathing muscles and loosening mucus. However, this has not a universally agreed-upon treatment. The spirometer is a small hand-held device that contains a breathing gauge. The user exhales forcefully through an attached tube, using the pressure of the exhalation to raise the gauge to the highest level possible.
Minimize Environmental Irritants
- It is important to reduce irritants within your home and work environments in order to prevent and manage bronchitis symptoms.
When weather and air quality permit, keep windows open to provide increased ventilation. You should also utilize an exhaust fan when using the stove, and make sure furnace vents are functional.
When using a wood-burning stove or fireplace, make sure it is well-ventilated and meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s safety standards. Keep fireplace flues open, and burn pressed wood products labeled “exterior grade”, since they contain the least amount of pollutants from resins.
Furnaces and chimneys should be inspected and cleaned yearly, especially if used heavily. It is also important to monitor for any signs of water damage, and eliminate mold and mildew as quickly as possible.
Whenever possible, you should avoid extreme temperatures. When the weather is very cold or windy, cover your mouth and nose with a scarf. When it is humid, try to stay in air-conditioned places. This can make breathing easier and reduce bronchitis symptoms.
There are several things that you should not do if you have bronchitis. Unless you have approval from a physician, never take tranquilizers, sedatives, or other drugs that may slow down breathing. Whenever possible, it is also important to avoid exposure to airborne irritants and aerosol products, such as hairspray, spray paint, or insecticides.
By using these guidelines, you can more effectively manage your bronchitis.