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Bronchitis

Living With Bronchitis

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 17:05

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

If you have bronchitis, there are steps you can take to help yourself:

Smoking Cessation

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.

Since nicotine is very addictive, smoking cessation may prove to be the hardest part of living with bronchitis. Studies have shown that use of nicotine-containing products, such as chewing gum or the patch, can help reduce cravings for a cigarette. These are even more helpful if combined with behavior modification and support groups.

Buproprion (Zyban, Wellbutrin) is an antidepressant medication that has been found to decrease cravings for cigarettes. It has been shown to be of benefit to individuals who want to quit smoking.

For more information about smoking cessation, go to Smoking: How To Stop.

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.

Flu and pneumococcal vaccines can safely be given at the same time.

Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises can be important. A technique called pursed-lip breathing can help improve lung function in patients with severe (usually combined with emphysema) bronchitis during or immediately after starting activities.

  • Exhale slowly and completely utilizing a count of two to inhale and six to exhale
  • The next breath will be larger because your lungs are much emptier at the end of the slow exhalation.

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 sputum 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.

How-To Information:

Exercise helps some people with chronic lung disease by strengthening their muscles, improving their endurance and reducing breathlessness. Studies show that exercise improves breathing. Walking is an excellent type of exercise. You should try to walk three to four times a day, at a comfortable pace, stopping for several slow exhalation breaths as needed. You should recover from this exercise within five to 10 minutes.

  • Consult your doctor to develop an exercise routine that's right for you.
  • Ask him or her whether to change the way you use your medications. For example, some people may need to use an inhaled short-acting bronchodilator 20 to 30 minutes before exercise.
  • Plan a regular time each day when you're least likely to cancel or be tired.

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 Tips

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.

Bronchitis