( By Dr. H.K.Bakhru )
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Bronchitis means an inflammation of the mucous membrane lining the bronchi and bronchial tube. It is a breathing disorder affecting the expiratory function. In most cases , some infection also occurs in the nose and throat.
The bronchi are narrow tubes leading from the windpipe( or trachea) connecting the upper respiratory tract, nose, throat and sinuses, to the lungs. It is usually the spread of an infection downwards from the nose and throat to the bronchi, that causes bronchitis.
Bronchitis is the most common disease of childhood next to indigestion and diarrhoea. It is especially prevalent in children who are just starting to mix with other children at playgroup or nursery school. They have no in-built immunity till then to all the infections they are likely to contact for the first time. And, so, coughs, colds and bronchitis can occur with monotonous regularity in his age group, particularly in allergic children.
Bronchitis may be acurte or chornic. In chronic cases, the disease is of long duration. It is more serious than the acute type, as permanent changes may have occured in the lungs thereby interfering with their normal movements.
In most cases of bronchitis , the larynx, trachea and bronchial tubes are acutely inflammed. The tissues are swollen due to irritation. Large quantity of mucous is secreted and pourted into the windpipe to protect the inflammed mucous membranes. There is usually a high fever, some difficulty in breathing and a deep chest cough. Other symptoms are hoarseness and pain in the chest. The breathing trouble continues till the inflammation subsides and mucous is removed.
The chief causes of bronchitis in children is run-down condition of the system due to wrong feeding habits. The consumption of excessive quantities of starchy foods in their daily diet in the form of refined cereals, white bread, puddings, pies and cakes as well as sugary foods in the form of white sugar, jams and sweets, in particular, leads to weakening of the child's system. The impurities which arise in the system as a result of the daily excessive ingestion of foods of this nature invariably affects the mucous membranes of the upper part of the body, especially in the bronchial tubes, throat, nose and air passages. This gives rise to bronchitis and other diseases of lungs and throat.
The child-patient should be kept in a room with warm and even temperature. He should not be given any solid foods till the acute symptoms are present. He may be given plenty of fruit juices. Orange juice diluted with water will be especially beneficial. In case of constipation, the child-patient should be given warm- water enema to cleanse the bowels. If he shows reluctance, a glycerine suppository may be applied. Often this simple treatment is all that is needed for a mild attack. Steam inhalations will be valuable, if the wheezing is pronounced and particularly troublesome. A kettle of boiling water kept in the room for a while can moisten the atmosphere sufficiently to give relief.
After the acute symptoms are over, the child may be given milk, other liquid foods and fresh fruits for further one or two days and thereafter he may be allowed to gradually embark upon a well-balanced diet, according to his age. He should avoid meats, sugar, tea, coffee, condiments, pickles, refined and processed foods. He should also avoid soft drinks , candies, ice-cream and all products made from sugar and white flour.
Certain home remedies have been found useful in the treatment of bronchitis. One of the most effective of these is the use of the turmeric powder. A quarter teaspoon of this powder should be administered with 30 ml. of milk two or three times daily. It acts best when taken on an empty stomach.
Another effective remedy for bronchitis is the mixture of dried ginger powder, pepper and long pepper taken in equal quantities of a quarter teaspoon three times a day with honey. The powder of these three ingredients have anti-pyretic qualities and are effective in dealing with fever accompanied with bronchitis. They also tone up the metabolism of the patient.
Onion has been used as a food remedy for centuries in bronchitis. It is said to possess expectorant properties. It liquifies phelgm and prevents its further formation. The intake of half a teaspoon of raw onion juice first thing in the morning will be beneficial in such cases.
A soup prepared from drumstick leaves is also highly beneficial in the treatment of bronchitis. This soup is prepared by adding a handful of leaves to 150 ml. of water which has been heated to a boiling point. The water is allowed to boil further for five minutes. It should then be removed from fire and allowed to cool. A little salt, pepper and lime juice may be added to this soup. This drink should be taken first thing every morning.
Hydrotherapy can be employed beneficially in the treatment of bronchitis. Hot towels wrung out and applied over the chest are helpful. After applying three hot towels in turn for two or three minutes each , one should always finish off with a cold towel. A wet pack or heating compress may also be applied to the upper chest several times daily in case of acute conditions. The procedure for this application has been explained in Appendix . In acute cases, full warm bath for 10 to 15 minutes will be beneficial. In irritable cough with expectoration, sipping very hot water, and gargling with hot water will be useful. In painful cough, hot fomentation should be applied to the chest and throat every two hours, followed by heating compressed. Copious drinknig of hot water will also be beneficial in both acute and chronic cases of bronchitis.