Coughing for 3 weeks? UAE doctors see rise in bronchitis, pneumonia cases

This rise can be attributed to the sudden weather fluctuations, gatherings during the festive season and an increase in international travel

by

SM Ayaz Zakir

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Published: Fri 12 Apr 2024, 10:48 AM

Last updated: Sun 14 Apr 2024, 3:47 PM

More than 5 of 10 patients that show up at a hospital are being diagnosed with bronchitis and nearly one in 10 patients is diagnosed with pneumonia, according to healthcare specialists across the UAE.

“I see a surge in the cases of acute bronchitis in my OPD and pneumonia cases recently,” said Dr Raiza Hameed KH, specialist pulmonology, Aster Clinic, Bur Dubai.


“⁠Now, 50-60 per cent of patients visiting chest OPD suffer from acute bronchitis and 10 percent of cases are from pneumonia. Asthma and COPD patients also come with worsening symptoms nowadays. Dubai Health Authority has also alerted physicians regarding an increase in influenza and acute bronchitis [cases] lately,” he added.

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At Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi the doctors have recorded at least 6 patients with bronchitis and pneumonia over the last month.

Causes of rising cases

Healthcare specialists attribute this rise to the sudden weather fluctuations and a dusty hot environment. In climate variations, which leads to respiratory infections, and acute bronchitis, triggering exacerbations in asthma and COPD patients.

“The rise in the infections can be attributed to including increased travel for Umrah, spring vacations, lack of influenza vaccination, and gatherings during Ramadan,” said Dr Rania Zein Eldien, respiratory specialist at Burjeel Hospital.

“The poor air quality lately has led to many people getting cough which lasts for 3-4 weeks. Smoking or vaping worsens the cough of acute bronchitis which makes the treatment more difficult,” said Dr Eldin.

Bronchitis

What is bronchitis?

According to doctors, bronchitis is the inflammation of airways or windpipes and can happen after a viral infection most commonly, triggered by weather fluctuations and irritant exposure.

Symptoms

There are several symptoms of bronchitis, the disease is characterised by the followin symptoms, according to Dr Hameed:

  • Cough
  • Chest tightness
  • Mucus production
  • Wheezing

“Chronic bronchitis is seen in smokers, asthma, and COPD patients,” he added.

All about pneumonia

Pneumonia is caused by an infection with bacteria, viruses, or fungi and the risk is increased in the elderly (above 65 years), those with chronic illness and other co-morbidities, uncontrolled diabetes mellitus and poor immunity. The disease can lead to respiratory failure and death also in severe cases.

Symptoms

Pneumonia is the infection of one or both lung parenchyma by a bacteria, virus, or fungi. “The symptoms of pneumonia are fever, cough, chest pain, mucus production, difficulty in breathing and lethargy. Pneumonia can be serious and should be treated with caution.

“Typically, symptoms start with flu-like symptoms such as a runny or blocked nose, fever, body pain, and fatigue, which persist longer than usual. Additional symptoms include a prolonged cough, abnormal-colored mucus, chest tightness, abnormal breathing, and chest pain,” says Dr Eldin.

Is it contagious?

Yes. According to Dr Eldin, “the illness is often contracted by coming into contact with sick patients without taking proper precautions.”

“Pneumonia is not contagious, but bacteria or viruses that cause the disease can be contagious. It can cause flu or pneumonia in other people depending on the person’s immunity level,” said Dr Hameed.

Healthcare specialists say that bronchitis is not contagious though the microorganisms that causes bronchitis are contagious.

Preventive measures

Healthcare specialists not that that controlling these diseases require adequate control measures - primarily pneumococcal and influenza vaccination.

Other preventive measures are:

  • Avoid going out during the days of weather fluctuations
  • Adequate layering of clothes to avoid wind and cold exposure
  • Wear a mask if you are going to crowded areas
  • Smoking cessation
  • In case of cough and cold, do not delay in getting your treatment
  • In case you have symptoms, avoid close contact and sharing things with other people
  • A healthy diet and lifestyle always help to keep infections away
  • Avoiding contact with sick individuals
  • Practising respiratory hygiene
  • Correcting any vitamin deficiencies can reduce the risk of contracting bronchitis and pneumonia

Treatment

“Treatment for bronchitis is usually symptomatic and includes supportive measures such as cough syrup, mucolytics, antipyretics for fever control, and bronchodilators for wheezing,” said Dr Eldin.

“Pneumonia is treated with antibiotics, mucolytics and bronchodilators. In mild cases pneumonia can be treated as an outpatient case, but any signs of respiratory failure or inadequate recovery warrants admission and proper evaluation,” said Dr Hameed.

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