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Natural Medicine : Bronchitis

Bronchitis is an infection in the lungs caused by viruses or bacteria. The infection results in inflammation of the lung tissue. Untreated bacterial bronchitis can develop into pneumonia.

Acute bronchitis is always associated with a cough and often with wheezing. Fever frequently accompanies acute bronchitis.

Chronic bronchitis usually produces a chronic cough without fever. There may be a slight elevation in temperature during the evening that may or may not be accompanied by night sweats.

Most upper respiratory tract infections, including colds, will have a phase of acute bronchitis beginning a day or two after the onset of cough, followed by wheezing and coughing when deep breaths are taken. The cough may be dry and tickling or may produce mucus secretions. Respiration may be noisy due to the secretions which are produced deep within the bronchi. A mild fever and a slight increase in white blood cells may last for seven to ten days.


1. The extremities should be kept quite warm. Even a short walk across the floor barefooted can cause a cough to be prolonged another day or so.

2. A hot foot bath can increase the circulating white blood cells and make them more active in fighting infections, quiet coughing, redistribute circulation to the extremities, and help relax the patient. A hot bath immersing the bottom half of the body also has similar benefits.

A child with a cough can be treated with a hot, half-body bath lasting one minute for each year of his age after the age of three. For newborns to three years of age, the length of time for the hot bath is three minutes. As the child grows older, the temperature of the bath water can be increased. Use bath water temperatures from 104 to 110 or 112 degrees Fahrenheit. A normal adult can easily tolerate 112 degrees or more for 15 to 20 minutes.

3. A heating compress can be applied to the chest each night. A heating compress can be made from a thin wet cotton piece of fabric placed against the skin. Cover the fabric well on all sides with a piece of plastic cut from a bread bag or similar material. Secure the compress in place with a long strip of bed sheet, a snug-fitting sweatshirt that is pinned securely to take up all slack, or a snug-fitting vest. The chest should be warmly covered and the compress worn all night. The wet cotton cloth should be squeezed from cold water, not warm water.

4. Hot steam fomentations over the chest are most useful for severe or stubborn cases.

5. Drink water freely. Drink a small glass of water after each cough. In this way, the secretions will finally become loose enough that they can be expectorated freely or the bronchial surfaces will become lubricated to reduce the tickling.

6. Catnip tea can be used for mild sedation to quiet a cough.

7. Do not take cough syrups containing codeine. These syrups contain antihistamines, sugar, and other potentially injurious agents that suppress the cough reflex. If the cough reflex is suppressed, secretions will remain in the lungs instead of being expectorated.

8. Do not consume free sugar in your diet. Sugar inhibits white blood cell functioning and compromises the body's defenses.

9. Follow a fat free diet. Oils inhibit the immune mechanism and the oxygenation of tissues. Avoid heavy or rich foods, hard-to-digest food items, margarine, mayonnaise, fried foods, cooking oil or other rich foods. Meat, milk, eggs and cheese should be consumed sparingly or eliminated from the diet. Two meals a day or three small meals are preferable.

10. Wear multiple layers of clothing. Clothing should be abundant on the extremities and over the chest, but not so heavy or thick as to promote sweating. Sweating can lead to chilling. Multiple layers of clothing on the extremities are better than wearing a few, thick garments.

11. A vaporizer or humidifier may be used to keep the secretions thin and to prevent drying and irritation of sensitive mucous membranes.

12. Exposure to sunlight and moderate exercise out-of-doors may help both acute and chronic bronchitis.

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