A seasonal cold is no big deal. Once or twice a year, your week is thrown into slow motion, and you pack your system full of vitamin C in hopes of a quick recovery. Beyond a few mild symptoms, you’re back on your feet in no time. However, if the cold spreads to your lungs and turns into bronchitis, your symptoms may worsen, and your treatment will likely need to change as well.
Myths and Facts
There are more home remedies and related myths about the common cold, flu and bronchitis than just about any other ailment out there. And myths about bronchitis can spread about as quickly as the virus itself. To shed light on the topic, we spoke with Norman Grosbach, MD, a family doctor at Banner Health Center in Gilbert, AZ and Brandie Beuthin, RN, a regional director of infection prevention for Banner Health in Arizona. They responded to a few of the most common rumors passed down over the generations.
1. Myth: Bronchitis is cured with antibiotics.
Fact: You may have been prescribed an antibiotic to help you fight your cold if there was concern that there was a concurrent bacterial infection. Antibiotics are very helpful when fighting bacterial infections, such as strep throat or a urinary tract infection. However, they do not fight viral infections like bronchitis; therefore, they will not help you feel better. Sometimes antibiotics may even worsen or introduce new symptoms and could lead to antibiotic resistance, making it harder for your body to fight later infections. If you are experiencing symptoms of bronchitis (see below) and are taking antibiotics, speak to your doctor.
2. Myth: Bronchitis is not contagious.
Fact: It is! Acute bronchitis can be spread through the air via coughing and sneezing. Contagions can also live on surfaces like doorknobs. To avoid infecting others, stay at home to rest. When you need to go out, avoid crowds and enclosed places. Bronchitis also shares symptoms with COVID-19, so it’s important to get tested for COVID-19 and isolate to avoid the spread of infection.
3. Myth: Fighting bronchitis requires lots of medication.
Fact: Many times, people can heal on their own. However, getting a proper diagnosis is vital to ensuring the right treatment. Left unattended, your infection could worsen significantly.
4. Myth: You may develop bronchitis as a result of a flu vaccine.
Fact: Getting your flu vaccine will actually help decrease your risk for bronchitis. Because bronchitis often develops from the flu or cold, decreasing your likelihood of those illnesses will significantly shrink your likelihood of bronchitis.
Differentiating bronchitis from other sicknesses is key to starting proper treatment. The key symptoms to watch for are:
- Coughing with or without mucus
- Soreness in the chest
- Feeling tired (fatigue)
- Mild headache
- Mild body aches
- Sore throat
“Wearing a mask during cold and flu season and getting necessary vaccines are great ways to lower your risk,” said Dr. Grosbach. If you develop bronchitis, most treatments will simply help you feel better while your body fights off the infection on its own. Here are a few tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Get plenty of rest
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Use a clean humidifier or cool mist vaporizer
- Use saline nasal spray or drops to relieve a stuffy nose
- For young children, use a rubber suction bulb to clear mucus
- Breathe in steam from a bowl of hot water or a shower
- Suck on lozenges. Do not give lozenges to children younger than 4 years of age
- Use honey to relieve cough for adults and children at least 1 year of age or older
You can breathe easy when you know how to protect yourself and your family from acute bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses. If you think you might have bronchitis, speak to your doctor or find a health care provider near you by visiting bannerhealth.com.
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