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Pregnancy can make you more susceptible to common illness as your immunity is changing. Not only will you find that you catch a cold or flu faster than usual, but these illnesses may even last longer than they would before. So, in case you feel like you have come down with a bad case of a cough or a sore throat, you may want to consult your doctor as it may be a case of bronchitis.
What is Bronchitis?
Bronchitis is characterised by an inflammation of the airways or the lower respiratory tract, which can make it difficult for you to breathe. Also, a viral infection in the mucous membrane can cause you to develop extra mucous which makes it harder for the bronchi to purify themselves.
Bronchitis may be of two main kinds – acute and chronic. Acute bronchitis is common among pregnant women and is caused by viruses. Thi kind of infection can be treated easily. Chronic bronchitis lasts from several months to several years and causes damage to the lungs as the infection keeps coming back.
Causes of Bronchitis during Pregnancy
Some of the common causes of bronchitis are:
1. Virus and Bacteria
Almost 90% of the cases of bronchitis are due to viruses. It is caused by the same viruses that spread flu and cold: rhinoviruses, parainfluenza viruses, etc. It can also be caused by bacteria. Mucous that builds up due to flu or cold can also cause bronchitis.
Common breathing irritants like smoke from cigarettes, dust particles, chemical fumes, etc can trigger bronchitis. They can also make the inflammation worse which can cause chronic bronchitis which is harmful to the baby and cause respiratory tract conditions and congenital effects in the baby.
3. Prolonged Exposure to Certain Substances
Long exposure to dust, grain, ammonia, strong acids, chlorine, and others can also be the cause of bronchitis.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of bronchitis in pregnant women may be slightly more than in others. Some of the commonplace signs are:
- Difficulty in breathing or a feeling of choking in the throat
- A low fever or a steady rise in temperature
- Sore throat
- Weakness in the body, fatigue, and body ache.
- Chest pains
- Lack of appetite
- Shortness of breath
You may also produce mucous which can be yellow, grey or even clear-coloured.
Diagnosing Bronchitis While Pregnant
The first diagnosis is usually carried out in the form of a physical exam where after noting the symptoms, the larynx is examined for redness and the ribs are examined to detect any swelling. The doctor will also use a stethoscope to listen to the heartbeat.
Although chest X-rays are done to determine the extent of the infection, it may be avoided in pregnant women due to prevent the risk of radiation to the foetus. Sputum (the mucous that is coughed up from the lungs) tests are done to determine if the condition can be relieved using antibiotics. It can also be tested for any allergies.
A different test is conducted to rule out other diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis that show similar symptoms. Pulmonary function tests in which you have to blow into a device called spirometer can be conducted to check the amount of air that the lungs can hold.
An accurate diagnosis is generally obtained from blood tests which detect signs of inflammation and measures the haemoglobin (Hb) and hematocrit (Ht) levels.
While it is unlikely that you will develop any serious complications due to bronchitis, there are a few risks that you need to be mindful of.
1. Difficulty in Breathing
Due to the inflammation of the bronchial walls, your lungs may take in a lower amount of oxygen, which in turn may hamper the level of optimal oxygen that is required by the foetus.
2. Medications That Interfere With Baby’s Growth
Certain antibiotics and drugs may interfere with the development of the baby. Hence, doctors usually recommend alternative remedies and rest and only administer medications when all other methods have failed.
Fever is a symptom of bronchitis. Sometimes, this temperature may increase and you may develop pneumonia putting your baby at risk.
Bronchitis caused due to bacterial infection are treated with an antibiotic prescription. However, it is important to exercise caution over the choice of the antibiotic as many of them are considered to be harmful to the foetus.
Some of the antibiotics that are safe during pregnancy are amoxicillin, erythromycin, clindamycin, penicillin, ampicillin, and nitrofurantoin.
Antibiotics like sulfamethoxazole, tetracycline, and trimethoprim can cause harm to the baby. Also, sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim are known to be responsible for birth defects in the baby.
However, if your bronchitis has stemmed from a virus, you will not need antibiotics as they are ineffective against viruses. This kind of infection will get better on its own. However, if the symptoms persist, you may be diagnosed with a bacterial infection and administered with antibiotics.
Timely treatment when the symptoms are first noticed can help prevent bronchitis from further affecting the mother and the baby. Treatments for pregnant women can also be dependent on the trimester they are in.
During the first trimester, a Bioparox drug will be prescribed to reduce inflammation by targeting the infection. In the first trimester, you will usually be given an antibiotic that belongs to the penicillin group.
During the second-trimester cephalosporin antibiotics which are safe for the baby are prescribed. Expectorants like bromhexine, halixol, ambroxol and mukaltin, which help clear the mucous are prescribed for a cough.
During the third trimester, if there is an intrauterine infection, an intravenous immunoglobin therapy is done. Based on the severity and the nature of the condition, treatment for preterm labour or possible miscarriage may also be done.
As soon as you feel the onset of bronchitis, you may want to begin a few home remedies to relieve the condition without having the need to take medications. Some of the best home remedies for acute bronchitis while pregnant are:
1. Gargling With Salt Water
Stir one teaspoon of salt in about 250 ml of water and gargle with the same. This can relieve you of a sore throat and help you get rid of mucous.
Turmeric is loaded with anti-inflammatory properties and can help you clear out mucous and ease a sore throat. Just add one teaspoon of turmeric powder to milk and boil it. Drink it when it’s warm.
Ginger is another kitchen essential that has anti-inflammatory properties. Grate some ginger into boiling water and drink this liquid once warm. You may also want to add some honey to sweeten it. Ginger can also treat common cold effectively.
4. Lemon-Honey Mixture
Take a glass of warm water and squeeze some lemon in it and add a spoon of honey. Lemon is rich in Vitamin C and flavonoids that fight infection, and honey has antiviral and antibacterial properties.
5. Inhale Steam
Bring a pot of water to boil and take it off the heat and inhale the steam once the water stops bubbling. You may want to throw a towel over your head to take in all the steam, which can help clear out any congestion in your throat and nose.
6. Irrigate Your Nasal Passage
Mix 250 ml of water with half a teaspoon of baking soda and salt. Lean over a sink at a 45-degree angle so that your nostrils are pointing in the direction of the sink. You can use a syringe or a squeeze bottle to pour the mixture into one of the nostrils as you breathe through your mouth. The solution will come out of the other nostril. This, when repeated several times a day, can help relieve difficulty in breathing.
Yogurt has healthy bacteria also known as probiotics which can help alleviate respiratory tract infections.
Proper precautions during pregnancy can minimize the possibility of contracting bronchitis if not prevent them altogether. Here are a few preventive measures that you can keep in mind.
- Stay away from people suffering from bronchitis. Use a mask around anyone who is suffering from a cold or flu to avoid germs.
- Wash your hands frequently to reduce the risk of viral infections.
- Keep away from allergens and irritants like smoke, chemical fumes, etc.
- Build your immunity with proper sleep, exercise, diet, and lifestyle.
Here are a few frequently asked questions about bronchitis.
1. Can You Use Albuterol Inhalers if You Have Bronchitis?
Albuterol inhalers are known to interact with the medications prescribed for bronchitis and may pose a risk to women with underlying heart conditions caused due to high blood pressure and heart rate. They are also known to have teratogenic effects on the baby; in order words, they may hamper the development of the foetus.
2. Can You Use Steroids for Bronchitis?
Steroids are commonly prescribed by many doctors during pregnancy to treat pre-existing medical conditions or allergies and asthma.
3. Can Extreme Coughing Affect Your Unborn Baby?
Coughing can cause physiological stress in the pregnant woman, leading to the release of a hormone called as cortisol. This hormone, when it reaches the placenta may cause adverse reactions on the baby and lead to birth and brain defects or even low birth weight in the baby.
Bronchitis is condition common in many women during pregnancy. While viral bronchitis can resolve itself with proper home remedies and care, it is important to take proper precautions to prevent contracting bronchitis. In case the symptoms of bronchitis do not subside within a few days, you may have a bacterial infection and will need to consult your doctor immediately. Ensure that you stay informed about the drugs and antibiotics that you can and cannot take during pregnancy to prevent causing any harm to the baby.
Also Read: Torch Infection during Pregnancy