Bronchitis is the inflammation of the mucous membranes of the lungs. As they swell with inflammation, the airways become constricted, which causes coughing fits. The coughing then inflames the airways even more, creating a vicious cycle that can lead to breathlessness and a cough that doesn’t know when to quit. Bronchitis usually lasts 1-3 weeks but bad cases can last longer. If you or your elder care provider have noticed your parent coughing a lot lately, you might be wondering if he has bronchitis. Bronchitis is recognized by the following symptoms.
- Coughing spells. If your parent has been having persistent coughing spells, he might have bronchitis. The coughs most often linked to bronchitis are short and weak but occur often. Your parent might find he cannot find rest between his coughing spells.
- Excessive phlegm. After a couple days of having a cough, your parent may notice that he is now producing a lot of phlegm with his hacking cough. The phlegm can be white, yellow, or green but if it’s colored with streaks of blood, bring your parent in to get examined as soon as possible. It could mean he has tuberculous or another serious condition.
- A constricted or tight chest. Chronic bronchitis often causes a heavy pain in the chest that gets worse when a person tries to take a deep breath. It can be quite uncomfortable and somewhat scary. If your parent is suffering from this, your elder care provider can bring him into his doctor to get some anti-inflammatory pain relievers prescribed to help alleviate the discomfort.
- Wheezing. When the airways are constricted, as they often are with bronchitis, your parent may notice a whistling sound occurs when he breathes out. It usually disappears once the bronchitis is cleared up, but if your parent is also struggling with breathlessness and extreme swelling, his doctor may prescribe an inhaler to help relieve this symptom.
- Breathlessness. Usually breathlessness only occurs with extreme cases of bronchitis. If your parent is having a hard time catching his breath after physical activity or after his coughing spells, this will be another reason his doctor may prescribe an inhaler. Keep the inhaler always within reach of your parent so he can use it whenever he feels he cannot catch his breath. Make sure his elder care provider is aware of his inhaler so she can ensure he uses it when they spend time together.
- Low-grade fever. If the bronchitis is brought on by a bacteria, your parent may develop a low-grade fever. Antibiotics can help treat this symptom as well as over the counter painkillers and fever reducers. If your parent’s fever goes above 102 degrees, you should have him visit his doctor to make sure his bronchitis has not developed into pneumonia.
- Fatigue. Because your parent’s body is using a lot of its energy to fight off this infection and because the coughing associated with bronchitis often affects sleep, your parent may feel especially fatigued. Encourage naps and general rest while he’s recuperating so that his body can gather all the strength it needs to restore him to good health again.
As always, keep your parent’s doctor informed of any changes in his health so his doctor can help you make informed decisions on the best care for your parent.