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Bronchitis And COVID-19

Published on Jul 03, 2020 and last reviewed on May 03, 2022   -  5 min read


Bronchitis is a lung disease. Read this article to know the risk of COVID-19 associated with bronchitis.

Bronchitis And COVID-19

What Is COVID-19?

COVID-19 has been ruling the world completely. The whole world is clueless about the happenings since the information that has been spread about the virus is unpredictable. It has been very frightening to see the fate of developing countries, which are deprived of vaccines and have limited treatment available. From a small animal market, it has become a disease next street. It has been the worst pandemic in the past 100 years. It is still clueless, whether it is a natural virus or a human-made virus.

Reports from the World health organization have said that the children below 10 years, the elderly above 60 years, immunocompromised, and other people suffering from comorbidities conditions like hypertension, diabetes mellitus, etc., are the individuals of higher risk. They have a higher chance of acquiring the most severe form of the disease. Also, their recovery could be a question mark. Thus, these individuals are leading the most cautious and frightened lives since the last two years. People who have known respiratory diseases have higher chances of getting infected with the coronavirus. Coronavirus being a new one it is difficult to manage it.

What Is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is a disease condition where the airways of the lungs, known as the bronchus that aids the passage of air from the upper respiratory tract, especially the trachea to the lower respiratory tract, are affected. In the disease manifestation, the cells lining the bronchus are inflamed. This condition makes the respiration process difficult.

It usually presents with a deep cough. The cough is initially a dry cough but rapidly progresses to a mucus-producing cough. The other symptoms might be shortness of breath, fatigue, slight fever and chills, chest discomfort, wheezing, cold, and headache.

What Is Acute and Chronic Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is divided into two types based on the onset and the duration of the disease. Bronchitis can be acute or chronic in onset.

In acute cases, the onset is sudden, and lasts less than four weeks. It also has a chance of getting resolved very soon with treatment. Sometimes, it can resolve without treatment. It might mimic the common flu. In some cases, it might also progress to pneumonia.

In cases of chronic bronchitis, the person has inflammation of the bronchus lining for a longer period. A patient who has been affected by chronic bronchitis for some other reasons might get infected by coronavirus easily and develop even more severe symptoms.

COVID-19 usually presents with the same symptoms of bronchitis. It might be confusing to confirm the diagnosis until proper diagnostic procedures are done. The current tests that are done to confirm COVID-19 are primarily the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test. Chest CT (Computed Tomography) scan can be done to note the opacifications typical of the disease.

What Is the Relationship Between COVID-19 and Bronchitis?

Coronaviruses' primary target is the respiratory system. The disease presents with inflammation of the airways of the lower respiratory tract. The lower respiratory tract involves the terminal bronchus, bronchioles, and alveolus. The commonly seen complication of the coronavirus is pneumonia. Chronic bronchitis tends to be one of the easy precursors of pneumonia. These are the reasons explained so far. There are no well-explained studies on bronchitis and coronavirus only limited information and reports are available.

How Is the Risk of Coronavirus?

Bronchitis is usually caused by chronic smoking habits or lung infections caused by a virus, bacteria, or even a fungus. It limits the person’s normal breathing ability for a period of time. It might interrupt the breathing pattern for several months. There is a myth that bronchitis causes COVID-19, which is not true. Bronchitis, especially when it is chronic, increases the risk for the person to easily progress to the severe forms of COVID-19. This could be challenging, and it could make the recovery of the patient very difficult. The symptoms of COVID-19 in a person with pre-existing lung diseases like bronchitis will be confusing with the symptoms of usual bronchitis. This is one of the reasons why a chronic bronchitis patient might neglect the symptoms of COVID-19. You should have an extra eye on your health if you are a bronchitis patient. On the other hand, people with a weak immune system who often acquire opportunistic lung infections by viruses and bacteria also experience symptoms of bronchitis. So, those individuals, when they get affected by COVID-19, might mistake it as their regular symptoms of opportunistic infections. This might lead to the negligence of the disease at the initial stages.

Risk of Self-Medication for Bronchitis:

Due to the pandemic conditions going on around the world, hospitals have become risky places. It is because the risk of getting infected with coronavirus from hospitals is high when compared to staying indoors at home. So, due to this fear, people when they get symptoms such as sore throat, fever, cold, headache, fatigue, and other common flu-related symptoms, deny or avoid going to the hospital to seek proper medical care.

Instead, these people choose to self-medicate themselves with over-the-counter medications like Paracetamol, cough syrups, and antihistamines without proper prescriptions from the doctors. This practice of self-medication may initially seem to relieve the symptoms, but it might progress the disease to more severe forms. In such cases, breathing is highly restricted in the patient. The risk gets doubled when the patient is known to have acute or chronic bronchitis. This is because the person might keep continuing their usual medicines prescribed for bronchitis, thinking that the symptoms are their usual bronchitis-induced symptoms. When the patient seeks medical care at the late stages of the disease, it might worsen the prognosis.

Happy Hypoxia - The Fatal Silent Killer in both Chronic Bronchitis and COVID-19

The lung damage, which may result from chronic bronchitis, can cause hypoxia due to the destruction of the alveoli or air sacs. Hypoxia develops when the blood does not supply enough oxygen to the air sacs in chronic bronchitis. A Low oxygen level in the body is known as hypoxia. It can lead to shortness of breath. Normal oxygen saturation is between 95 to 100 %. Hypoxia-induced shortness of breath is one of the most common clinical symptoms of COVID-19 and chronic bronchitis. But surprisingly, despite hypoxia, some patients with chronic bronchitis and COVID-19 do not appear to be ill, which does not mean they are not significantly affected.

Increasingly, patients are presenting with happy or silent hypoxia, where the body's oxygen levels are below 90 %. Yet, they are still able to breathe normally, talk and seem perfectly alert. The patient has no shortness of breath, no fast or shallow breathing, and likely no signs, symptoms, or sense that something may be off. Patients are unaware that their bodies are deprived of oxygen. While they should be gasping for air, they appear to be perfectly healthy.

The pulse oximeter can detect dangerously low oxygen levels and computed tomography of the chest show features of pneumonia. Silent hypoxia can eventually develop shortness of breath.

Still, by that point, lung damage has already gotten worse, and a high flow oxygen supply or ventilator cannot help them to back from death. It is assumed that the lungs are affected by blood clotting. The lungs may develop silent hypoxia. For patients with chronic bronchitis or COVID-19 or both, we should measure their oxygen saturation rate by pulse oximeter to exclude hypoxia. It is very much essential to save their lives.

What Are the Precautionary Measures?

The basic prevention is staying indoors and getting COVID-19 vaccinations on time, including the booster doses. If the patient is a working individual, adequate personal hygiene measures must be practiced. Personal hygiene practices include proper handwashing techniques, wearing masks properly without fail, and following adequate social distancing. The proper social distancing is suggested by the World Health Organization to be a minimum of six feet or two meters. The patient must not only use masks but also has to dispose of the used masks properly to avoid contamination of the living area by the virus.

The virus is known to live on contact surfaces for about 72 hours, so proper disinfection of surfaces and the workplace with disinfectants is mandatory. Hand washing must be done for at least 20 seconds by following the proper handwashing technique using soap and water. In individuals whose work conditions do not permit hand washing conditions, they must carry hand sanitizers to disinfect their hands whenever needed.

Along with these protocols getting vaccinated is also very essential to break this chain of transmission. Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you are still not vaccinated.

Above all, bronchitis patients must follow their routine medications without fail. They should avoid all possible triggers like allergens. It might cause an acute flare-up of bronchitis. Whenever there are uncommon symptoms experienced, or if the person feels the condition of bronchitis is worsening, the person must seek adequate medical care from doctors. Preventing a bronchitis patient from getting infected by COVID-19 also requires the support and care of family members.

For further assistance, call a doctor online.

Article Resources

Last reviewed at:
03 May 2022  -  5 min read




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