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Posts Tagged ‘lungs’

Acute bronchitis, an infection causing inflammations of the lung’s airways, is one of the most common of human ailments.

It usually begins with head cold symptoms, such as a runny nose, sinus congestion or a sore throat. It is almost always caused by a virus and rarely by bacteria. If a cough is not caused by pneumonia, influenza or asthma, it is most likely a symptom of bronchitis.

Most people actually feel fairly well with bronchitis, except for having a persistent cough. Fever is rare with bronchitis, and mucus production may or may not be present.

A very common misperception is that colored mucus, especially green, indicates a bacterial infection and therefore the need for antibiotics. Recent scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports that virus infections also produce green mucus, and viruses are treated not with antibiotics, but rather by one’s own immune system.

Those who smoke are much more susceptible to bronchitis, because of the damage done by the smoke to the lining of the breathing tubes; therefore, germs can enter the lungs more easily, causing an infection.

Many patients request antibiotics in hopes of quickly ridding themselves of the cough and therefore visit their doctor as soon as symptoms begin so that they may “nip it in the bud.” Some think that antibiotics helped them on previous occasions, but there is no proven benefit for these drugs in the treatment of bronchitis. Inappropriate antibiotic use can cause unnecessary side effects, increase the cost of medical care and lead to the development of resistant germs.

Treatment for bronchitis should be directed toward relieving the symptoms.

For the head cold symptoms that go with bronchitis, Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (ibuprofen) can be used for the relief of aches and pains. An oral decongestant pill, such as Sudafed (pseudoephrine), as well as a decongestant nasal spray, such as Afrin (oxymetazoline hydrochloride), can be used to combat nasal and sinus congestion. Afrin spray is usually very effective, but it should not be used for more than a week to avoid rebound (worsening) congestion.

Drinking plenty of liquids has proven to be very effective to keep the mucus loose. For cough symptoms, over-the-counter cough medicines with dextromethorphan, such as Robitussin DM or Vicks 44, may be helpful.

If one ends up at the doctor’s office, a prescription cough medication may be prescribed. A cough suppressant, especially if taken at bedtime, will not interfere with the healing process. Also, for a cough associated with wheezing, a doctor may prescribe a brief course of an inhaled medication commonly used for asthmatics.

In summary:

**Bronchitis is caused by a virus, and antibiotics are almost never necessary

**The cough of bronchitis often lasts 10 to 20 days.

**For aches and pains, Tylenol or Advil

**For nasal or sinus congestion, Sudafed or Afrin nasal spray

**For cough relief, Robitussin DM or Vicks 44

See your doctor if you have any significant worries regarding your symptoms, but especially if your cough is associated with a fever of greater than 38 degrees Celsius or 100½ degrees Fahrenheit, or if you have chest pain or trouble breathing.

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Pneumonia is a potentially serious infection of the lungs, usually caused by viruses or bacteria.

As opposed to bronchitis, which is a relatively nonserious infection of the lungs’ airways, pneumonia infects the tissue of the lungs, filling the tiny air sacs with pus and other liquid. This reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the bloodstream.

Germs have the potential of spreading from the infected lung tissue into the rest of the body, causing septic shock and possibly death. Although this is not the common outcome, it still accounts for 60,000 Americans dying of pneumonia every year.

Pneumonia symptoms can vary significantly, depending on underlying health problems and the type of organism causing the infection.

More than half of pneumonias are caused by a variety of viruses. These are usually not serious and often last a relatively short time. Because a person with viral pneumonia tends not to be as sick as someone with bacterial pneumonia, such a person is usually “up and about” and therefore is often referred to as having “walking pneumonia.”

Symptoms of viral pneumonia include cough, fever, muscle pain and fatigue. Signs which often occur with bacterial pneumonia include shaking chills, high fever, chest pain and cough. Mucus may be present with either type of pneumonia but is more likely with the bacterial variety.

Pneumonia is not usually contagious.

One of the most common symptoms I see in patients with any form of pneumonia is the extreme fatigue, which can last many weeks after all other symptoms have cleared.

Risk factors for pneumonia are as follows:

  • Age — Adults 65 and older and very young children
  • Chronic disease, such as emphysema, diabetes and heart disease
  • Smoking
  • Recent hospitalization,  surgery or traumatic injury

Pneumonia treatments vary on the type and severity of the illness. Bacterial pneumonia will be treated with antibiotics. The entire course of antibiotics must be taken to prevent relapse and to prevent resistant strains of bacteria from forming. Viral pneumonia technically doesn’t need antibiotics, but because of the difficulty of distinguishing between the two, a health care provider will usually choose to err on the side of treatment, especially because viral pneumonia can sometimes turn into a bacterial infection.

In all cases of pneumonia, one also needs to control fever, drink lots of liquids and get plenty of rest.

Prevention of pneumonia is possible. Because pneumonia is a common complication of influenza, getting a flu shot every year is a good idea.

There is a false assumption held by many that getting a pneumonia shot will prevent one from getting any type of pneumonia. Not so. A pneumonia vaccine is available, but it is only effective for the pneumococcal pneumonia germ. It might not prevent one from getting this form of pneumonia, but having the vaccine can decrease the infection’s potentially fatal side effects. The vaccine is usually recommended for those who fall into the previously mentioned “risk factor” categories and can be administered any time after 2 years of age or at least once to anyone after age 65.

It’s a good idea to seek medical care if a person has a cough with shortness of breath, chest pain, chills and fever or feels much worse after a bout of cold or flu. Pneumonia is a serious infection, but for the average person, if it’s caught in time and treated properly, it should cause no lasting harm.

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Acute bronchitis is an infection causing inflammations of the lungs’ airways and is one of the most common of human ailments. It usually begins with head-cold symptoms — a runny nose, sinus congestion or a sore throat.

Bronchitis is almost always caused by a virus but is also (rarely) caused by bacteria. If a cough is not caused by pneumonia, influenza or asthma, it is most likely a symptom of bronchitis. Most people actually feel fairly well with bronchitis, except for having a persistent cough. Fever is rare with bronchitis and mucus production may or may not be present.

A very common misperception is that colored mucus, especially green, indicates a bacterial infection and therefore the need for antibiotics. Recent scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that viruses also produce green mucus. Viruses are not treated with antibiotics, but rather by one’s own immune system.

Those who smoke are much more susceptible to bronchitis because of the damage done by the smoke to the lining of the breathing tubes; germs can therefore enter the lungs more easily, causing an infection.

Many patients request antibiotics in hopes of quickly ridding themselves of the cough. They visit their doctor as soon as symptoms begin so that they may “nip it in the bud.” Some think that antibiotics helped them on previous occasions, but there is no proven benefit for these drugs in the treatment of bronchitis.

Inappropriate antibiotic use can cause unnecessary side effects, increase the cost of medical care and lead to the development of resistant germs, such as the resistant staph germ I wrote about last month.

Treatment for bronchitis is directed toward relieving its symptoms.

For the head cold symptoms that come with bronchitis, Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (ibuprofen) can be used for the relief of aches and pains. An oral decongestant pill such as Sudafed (pseudoephrine) as well as a decongestant nasal spray, such as Afrin (oxymetazoline hydrochloride,) can be used to combat nasal and sinus congestion. Afrin spray is usually very effective but should not be used for more than one week to avoid rebound (worsening) congestion.

Drinking plenty of liquids has proven to be just as effective as an expectorant medication to keep the mucus loose. For cough symptoms, over the counter cough medicines with dextromethorphan, such as Robitussin DM or Vicks 44, may be helpful.

If one ends up at the doctor’s office, a prescription cough medication may be given. A cough suppressant, especially if taken at bedtime, will not interfere with the healing process. Also, for a persistent bothersome cough of one to two weeks duration, a doctor may prescribe a brief course of an inhaled medication commonly used for asthmatics.

In summary:

  • Bronchitis is caused by a virus and antibiotics are almost never necessary.
  • The cough caused by bronchitis often lasts 10 to 20 days.
  • For aches and pains, take Tylenol or Advil.
  • For nasal or sinus congestion, take Sudafed or Afrin nasal spray.
  • For cough relief, take Robitussin DM or Vicks 44.

See your doctor if you have concerns regarding your symptoms, but especially if your cough is associated with a fever of greater than 38 degrees C or 100.5 F, or if you have chest pain or trouble breathing.

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