Bronchi are the air passages that extend from our windpipe to the lungs. When the bronchi become irritated and inflamed, the air passages become clogged by debris and excess mucosal secretions develop in the lungs and cause coughing. This condition is called Bronchitis.

In healthy individuals, bronchitis often occurs when the immune system is depleted, for instance after a cold or flu. It is usually caused by a viral infection. This means that antibiotics will not be of benefit unless it is caused by a bacterial infection.

The common types of viruses that cause bronchitis include:

Influenza A and B
Rhinovirus
Adenovirus
Although less common, bacteria commonly associated with bronchitis include:

Mycoplasma pneumonia
Streptococcus pneumonia
Haemophilus influenzae
A sputum culture is a diagnostic test doctors use to determine if a respiratory infection is caused by a bacteria or fungi. If antibiotics are needed, it can also help doctors determine which type of antibiotic will best help. If the sputum culture comes back negative, this generally indicates that a virus is the cause of the infection.

Keep in mind that sputum is not the same thing as saliva. Sputum is a thick fluid that gets produced in the lungs when there is inflammation and infection affecting the air passages. A sputum sample is collected by coughing up this thick fluid into a specimen container, which then gets sent to a laboratory for testing. It is best done first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.

Individuals who’ve had pneumonia in the past will also have a higher risk of developing bronchitis. However, bronchitis can also be due to breathing in airborne substances that irritate the lungs such as cigarette smoking, chemicals, dust and fumes.

Additionally, people over the age of 50 and those with compromised immune systems are more susceptible to developing bronchitis, especially during the colder months. It is important that these individuals take extra care in the months leading up to winter and during colder weather to keep their immune system functioning optimally. Things that can help include vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc, manuka honey, vitamin D and Echinacea.

Wishing you vibrant health,

Amy