Many people suffer from allergies, but does that mean that you are at risk of bronchitis? The team at DrHouse wants to help clear this up and help you identify whether your symptoms may point towards allergic bronchitis. Let’s have a look at more details.
An Overview of Allergies
An allergy is when the body’s immune system reacts to something that is usually safe, like pollen, food, or house dust mites. Most people don’t have a problem with these substances (allergens), but people with allergies do because their immune system sees them as a “threat” and reacts in the wrong way. This can cause localized itching or, in more serious cases, anaphylaxis, a condition that can cause upper respiratory obstruction, collapse, and even death.
Most allergic reactions are brought on by:
- Pollen from plants and trees
- Proteins that house dust mites give off
- Foods like peanuts, tree nuts, milk, and eggs are allergens.
- Pets like cats and dogs, as well as horses, rabbits, and guinea pigs, which have fur or hair.
- Wasps and bees are examples of insects.
- Medicines (these may cause reactions by binding to proteins in the blood, which then trigger the reaction).
When You Have an Allergic Reaction, What Happens?
When an allergen that a person is allergic to comes into contact with them, they have a reaction. This starts when the allergen, like pollen, gets into the body and makes the antibodies react. When the allergen comes into contact with the antibodies, these cells respond by letting out certain chemicals, one of which is called histamine. These substances make the tissues around them swell, become inflamed, and itch, which is very annoying and uncomfortable.
After being exposed to an allergen for a few minutes, allergic reactions usually happen quickly.
Some of the most common signs of an allergic reaction are:
- Wheezing, coughing, or trouble getting enough air
- Sinus pain / runny nose
- Rash or hives
- Itchy eyes, ears, mouth, lips, and throat
- Sickness, throwing up, and loose stools
What Is Bronchitis?
Bronchitis is an inflammation of the mucous membranes of the bronchial tubes, which carry the lungs’ oxygenated air. It is common for people with bronchitis to produce thick, yellowish mucus that they cough up. Acute and chronic bronchitis are both possible outcomes.
Acute bronchitis is a typical complication of a cold or other respiratory illness. Chronic bronchitis, a more dangerous illness, occurs when the lining of the bronchial tubes is constantly irritated or inflamed, commonly this can be a result of tobacco use.
In most cases, the symptoms of acute bronchitis (commonly referred to as a chest cold) are gone within a week to ten days, but the cough might remain for weeks.
You may need medical attention for your chronic bronchitis, which occurs when you have the flu or bronchitis repeatedly. The chronic obstructive pulmonary disease includes a variety of ailments, including chronic bronchitis (COPD).
Can Allergies Cause Bronchitis?
The short answer is yes. Bronchitis can be caused by allergies, however, this isn’t likely to happen quickly and you can recognize the signs that your allergies may be causing further problems. When your allergies lead to bronchitis, it is referred to as allergic bronchitis.
What Is Allergic Bronchitis?
When you have allergic bronchitis, your bronchi become inflamed because of an allergen, or something you are allergic to.
Symptoms can be caused by things that irritate the airways, like pollen, dust, and mold. Most of the time, allergic bronchitis is caused by smoking cigarettes.
If you have allergic bronchitis, your symptoms may last for a long time or keep coming back.
Chronic bronchitis is often used to describe allergic bronchitis that lasts longer than three months. This is a type of COPD. Most of the time, smoking cigarettes is what causes chronic bronchitis.
Bronchitis can also make things worse. For instance, a lung infection like pneumonia can happen. In the worst cases, pneumonia can lead to septicemia, which is an infection in the blood. Most of the time, septicemia is life-threatening.
How Does Allergic Bronchitis Differ From Acute Bronchitis?
Bronchitis that isn’t caused by allergies is caused by a viral or bacterial infection. For example, some people get bronchitis that isn’t caused by allergies after getting a cold.
Anyone can get bronchitis that isn’t caused by an allergy, but older people are more likely to get it. People who smoke and have a weak immune system are also more likely to get bronchitis after an infection in the upper airways.
Most of the time, the symptoms get better in a few weeks, and they don’t come back as often as the symptoms of allergic bronchitis.
Some people call non-allergic bronchitis “acute bronchitis” because the symptoms can come on quickly and usually don’t last long.
Some signs of acute bronchitis that aren’t caused by allergies are:
- A cough that makes mucus
- A Fever
The main difference between allergic bronchitis and acute bronchitis is that acute bronchitis is caused by a viral or bacterial infection rather than caused by allergies. Acute bronchitis will usually clear up within a few weeks whereas allergic bronchitis will be persistent and could last months or lead to long-term COPD.
Allergic Bronchitis Symtpoms
Some of the signs of allergic bronchitis are:
- A cough that makes clear or white mucus
- Tightness in the chest
- Tiredness/ fatigue
How to Treat Bronchitis From Allergies?
Your doctor may give you one or more of these treatments to open up your airways and make it easier for you to breathe.
- Oxygen therapy
- Pulmonary rehabilitation
- Breathing Exercises
How to Avoid Bronchitis Caused by Allergies?
Stopping smoking is the best way to keep from getting allergic bronchitis. Getting rid of your habit will also keep you from getting cancer and heart disease. Ask your doctor to suggest a way to stop smoking, like a nicotine replacement or something that can help curtail any cravings.
Here are a few more ways to keep your lungs healthy:
- Ensure there is good airflow when working near chemicals.
- Use a respirator
- Don’t breathe in fumes at home such as paint, cleaners, and hairspray.
- Open windows and allow air to flow around your home.
- Be wary when working in the garden, wear a mask to protect yourself from dust, and pollen.
- Seek the help of a specialist.
When to See a Doctor?
People often ignore the signs of chronic bronchitis because they think they just have a smoker’s cough.
But if you even have the slightest idea that you might have bronchitis, you should call your doctor right away.
If you don’t get treatment for chronic bronchitis on time, you have a much higher chance of getting serious lung damage, which can lead to breathing problems or heart failure.
You should call your doctor if:
- Your cough lasts longer than 3 weeks.
- If you have a fever above 100.4°F (38°C)
- Your cough stops you from sleeping
- You have mucus
- You have wheezing or shortness of breath
How Can DrHouse Help You?
If you think you might have allergic bronchitis or have any of the above symptoms, you should talk to DrHouse, your online doctor.
They can talk to you about your symptoms and decide if you need to see a doctor right away.
- Allergies. Mayo Clinic. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/allergies/symptoms-causes/syc-20351497
- T. Zuberbier. What happens in my body when I have an allergy? non-profit European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation (ECARF). Available from: https://www.ecarf.org/en/information-portal/general-allergy-info/what-happens-in-my-body-when-i-have-an-allergy/
- Paul Stang, Eva Lydick, Cheryl Silberman, Angela Kempel, Elizabeth T. Keating, The Prevalence of COPD: Using Smoking Rates to Estimate Disease Frequency in the General Population, Chest, Volume 117, Issue 5, Supplement 2, 2000, Pages 354S-359S, ISSN 0012-3692, Available from: https://doi.org/10.1378/chest.117.5_suppl_2.354S.
- Geo.L. Waldbott, Allergic bronchitis. The Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine. Volume 13, Issue 10, P943-949, July 01, 1928. Available from: https://www.translationalres.com/article/S0022-2143(28)90570-3/fulltext
- Katherine Lee, Understanding What Causes Bronchitis, and How to Prevent It, Everyday Health. Available from: https://www.everydayhealth.com/lung-and-respiratory/bronchitis/understanding-what-causes-bronchitis-how-prevent-it/
DrHouse articles are written by MDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. The contents of the DrHouse site are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.