What Is Tracheobronchitis?

A cough is a common symptom of tracheobronchitis.
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  • Written By: Alex Paul
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 27 July 2014
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Tracheobronchitis, also known as bronchitis, is a condition involving inflammation of the windpipe or bronchi, both of which carry air to the lungs. This is often the result of an infection, but can also be due to an irritant or allergic reaction. Symptoms include a cough, wheezing, and sore throat. Treatment usually focuses on the symptoms because the condition generally heals itself naturally and relatively quickly, but sometimes antibiotics are prescribed. Rest and lots of water are commonly recommended to speed up the recovery process.

The respiratory tract contains both the windpipe and bronchi. When inflammation occurs in these parts of the body, it is often referred to as tracheobronchitis. This is a relatively common condition that can be the result of a viral or bacterial infection. If a person swallows or inhales an irritant, inflammation can also occur.

Bronchitis or tracheobronchitis usually refers to a group of symptoms rather than a specific condition, so it technically is not contagious. If, however, the symptoms are caused by a viral or bacterial infection, it this may be contagious. Bronchitis caused by irritants, such as cigarette smoke, cannot be directly passed between people, however.

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A cough, which can either be dry or contain phlegm, is the most common symptom of tracheobronchitis. Depending on the severity of the condition, constant coughing can result in other symptoms such as a sore chest or abdomen. In the most severe cases, violent coughing can cause damage to the chest wall. Other potential symptoms of tracheobronchitis include wheezing, which is the result of muscles tightening and the airways becoming inflamed, a sore throat, and fever.

The condition is usually acute, which means it will often only last a few weeks. If, however, the condition causes chronic inflammation, medical treatment becomes more important. To start with, the patient should rest and try to stay warm, while at the same time avoiding dehydration. If the cough is causing significant discomfort, a humidifier may be helpful to decrease irritation. Over-the-counter painkillers and cough medicine can also help to reduce symptoms and make the condition more bearable.

The symptoms of tracheobronchitis are often caused by viral infections, which cannot be treated with antibiotics. If, however, tracheobronchitis is the result of a bacterial infection, a course of antibiotics may be prescribed. In many acute cases, a doctor will recommend treating the symptoms rather than the underlying cause because the discomfort usually resolves itself naturally.

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Discuss this Article

julies
Post 10

Tracheobronchitis is one of those things that can start out so subtly that you hardly notice anything is wrong. At least that is the way it happens for me.

Every winter I start to get a dry cough and the first thing I do is put a humidifier in the bedroom. This helps keep more moisture in the air, but my cough still persists.

I have had treatment for pneumonia in the past, so I watch this closely and make sure it doesn't get worse. There is usually a fine line between letting it run its course and getting the right medication so it won't turn in to pneumonia.

andee
Post 9

When we were on vacation we left our dog at the kennel and thought she was in good hands. A few days after we picked her up, she began coughing and I thought it was probably bronchitis.

It didn't go away, so I took her to the vet, and he said she had kennel cough symptoms. This is something she would have picked up when she was staying at the kennel.

I don't understand how this can happen so easily. We had to show that our dog had her current shots, and I thought everyone who kept their pets there had to do the same thing.

Does this happen just because there are so many animals in close proximity with each other?

John57
Post 8

My sister lives in a very small house, and they have 2 cats and 2 dogs that live in this small space with them.

Every time she does some heavy duty cleaning and vacuuming, she ends up with bronchitis. This is caused from stirring up all the pet hair and dander that is in the house.

By the next day, she is coughing and wheezing and is just plain miserable. It's not contagious, so she continues to work, but it sounds like she should be home in bed resting.

If she is going to keep all those animals in the house, I think the only way around it would be to clean more often. She usually puts it off too long and that is when it causes her the most trouble.

cloudel
Post 7

@kylee07drg – My fear of my bronchitis turning into pneumonia is exactly what sent me to my doctor. I knew that it wasn't a viral or bacterial problem, but I didn't know whether or not that mattered in this situation.

I had been cleaning the utility room of a house I had just rented, and its shelves were layered with dust and dirt. As soon as I started dusting and sweeping, the dust flew up in my face and I inhaled it. I was in there for several hours, so I got a lot of it in my lungs.

I immediately began coughing, but the surprising thing was that I couldn't stop. Every time I tried to take a breath, I was cut short by the hacking.

It was even more violent than bronchitis I have had in the past, probably because the inflammation came at me all at once instead of developing over time. My doctor gave me an inhaler with a corticosteroid in it, and this slowed down the coughing. It cut the bronchitis short and gave me much needed relief.

kylee07drg
Post 6

If you have a sinus infection for a long time and you don't do anything about it, it can turn into bronchitis. I suffer from allergies, and I have had this happen to me before.

After weeks of dealing with nasal congestion, my chest would suddenly become congested. I would start coughing up phlegm, and it seemed that no matter how much I coughed up, there was more in there.

At this point, I always get antibiotics from my doctor. I have heard that bronchitis can turn into pneumonia, and I definitely don't want that.

seag47
Post 5

It seems like every time I get bronchitis, it is from a viral infection, and I can't get a lot of help for that. The only thing my doctor can do is prescribe me some super powerful cough medicine to help me deal with the pain and difficulty breathing.

This cough medicine has codeine in it, so it is available by prescription only. I don't know exactly how, but it manages to soothe my airways and relax my tightening muscles. It also makes me very happy and sleepy, so I can actually get some much needed rest, and I think this aids in my recovery.

StarJo
Post 4

@feruze – Bronchitis certainly is rough. Every time I have had it, I have had to go to a doctor, because it got so bad that I thought I might die.

It seems that the coughing always progresses to wheezing, and then I can scarcely catch my breath. No amount of over-the-counter cough medicine seems to work, and during the night, my condition worsens to the point that I consider going to the emergency room.

When it gets this bad, it is generally because of a bacterial infection. Antibiotics can eventually cure it, but a shot of steroids sure helps speed my healing along.

burcinc
Post 3

@alisha-- Dogs can absolutely have tracheobronchitis. But you should let the veterinarian diagnose it and the cause of her cough. It does sound like it could be from irritation though.

Just like human cases of tracheobronchitis, dogs can have irritation caused or infection caused bronchitis. The bronchitis caused by an infection which makes dogs cough horribly is actually called "canine infectious respiratory disease."

It's also called kennel cough because it's pretty common in shelters and the like where many dogs live together. The virus passes from one dog to another. If your dog has an irritation related bronchitis, the vet probably won't do anything. But if it's infection related, she might need some shots of antibiotics. My dog which I adopted from the shelter also got a kennel cough treatment.

discographer
Post 2

Can dogs get bronchitis or tracheobronchitis too?

My dog has been dry coughing for the past couple of days. I don't think she has an infection, but it might be an irritation. My husband took her to the playground with our son several days ago. It's possible that she might have inhaled some dirt or sand there.

I have a crazy schedule at work and will take her to the vet as soon as I get a chance. Do you think this could be bronchitis though?

bear78
Post 1

I had such a bad case of tracheobronchitis this winter. I think I picked up a virus during a flight. Since planes are an enclosed space and air is flowing freely inside, it's pretty easy to pick up something if there is anyone who is sick.

I had the usual cold symptoms of bronchitis in several days- fatigue, headaches and a terrible cough. I coughed constantly and so intensely that I couldn't sleep at night. I was sucking on lozenges and cough drops constantly. I was on antibiotics but it took a week for the antibiotics to really improve my condition. At one point, I even tore my throat while coughing and my mucus had a little blood in it.

It was not fun and I truly hope I don't ever get bronchitis again.

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