Every time you breathe in, air enters your nose and mouth. It flows down your throat and into a series of air passageways called bronchial tubes. Those tubes need to be open for the air to reach your lungs, where the oxygen is passed into the blood to be transported to your body's tissues.
If the airways are inflamed, air has more difficulty getting to your lungs. With less air getting in, you can feel short of breath. You may wheeze and cough in an attempt to draw in more oxygen through tightened passageways.
As winter weather rolls in, so do colds and flu. But for those with asthma, it can be an especially stressful time of year because even a simple cold virus can trigger a major asthma event.
"In asthma, the lungs are already irritable and more reactive. So any virus that impacts the lungs has a propensity for creating more problems, including bringing on an asthma event faster and easier than many people realize," says Jonathan Field, MD, director of the Allergy and Asthma Clinic at NYU Medical Center/Bellevue...
Bronchitis and asthma are two inflammatory airway conditions. Acute bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of the airways that usually resolves itself after running its course. It's caused by viral or bacterial infections. Chronic bronchitis, which is longer lasting, can be triggered by long-term exposure to environmental irritants such as tobacco smoke, dust, or chemicals.
Asthma is an inflammatory condition that leads to tightening of the muscles around the airways and swelling that cause airways to narrow.
You might wonder, is asthmatic bronchitis contagious? Bronchitis itself can be caused by a virus or bacteria, which are contagious. However, chronic asthmatic bronchitis typically is not contagious.
Visiting Your Doctor
If you've been experiencing symptoms like those listed above, make an appointment with your doctor. After going through a series of questions about your symptoms and taking a medical history and physical exam, your doctor may order tests such as:
Spirometry. A test that measures lung function as you breathe in and out of a mouthpiece that is attached to a device called a spirometer.
Peak expiratory flow. A test that measures the force of air you breathe out (exhale) into the mouthpiece of a device called a peak expiratory flow meter.
Chest X-ray. A radiology test that produces images of the chest to look for evidence of other conditions that could be causing your cough and breathing problems.