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What You Need to Know about Bronchitis

  • Category: LiveSmart
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  • Written By: Baldwin

Breathe easier by understanding what you can do to prevent this bothersome condition.

Coughing a lot and wondering if you have bronchitis? If you've recently had a cold, the flu, COVID-19 or another respiratory infection and you have a lingering cough, especially if you're coughing up mucus, there's a good chance you do.

What is bronchitis?

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of your bronchial tubes, which are the tubes that carry air to and from your lungs. The acute type of this condition is common and typically develops from a cold or another respiratory illness. It usually clears up within days or weeks, with no long-term effects.

Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, is a more serious condition that doesn't go away or keeps coming back. This refers to constant inflammation of the bronchial tube lining that may be associated with smoking, breathing in air pollution or irritants and COPD.

What are the symptoms of bronchitis?

Common symptoms of bronchitis include:

  • Cough that brings up mucus
  • Chest congestion or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing

Since you may also have a cold or respiratory infection with acute bronchitis, you may have other symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Mild fever and chills
  • Headache and body aches
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat

How long do symptoms last?

Most cases of acute bronchitis clear up within 5 to 10 days, although the cough may linger for a few more weeks while inflammation in the bronchial tubes subsides. If you have chronic bronchitis, your cough may last for at least three months or more.

Is there anything I can do so I won't get bronchitis?

Having a virus, such as a cold or the flu, is what usually brings on acute bronchitis. As your body fights the germs, it may cause your bronchial tubes to swell. This makes the openings through which air flows smaller, which can make it harder to breathe. People who are more prone to these types of illnesses or have a weaker immune system are more likely to develop bronchitis. If you have asthma, allergies, a history of lung disease or if you smoke, you may also be more likely to get bronchitis.

The only way to prevent bronchitis is to avoid getting sick with another respiratory infection, like a cold, the flu or COVID-19, in the first place. The best way to do that is to keep your immune system strong, get an annual flu shot and recommended COVID-19 vaccines/boosters, avoid people who are sick and wash your hands often.

How is bronchitis treated?

Because most cases of bronchitis arise from a virus rather than a bacterial infection, there is often no treatment needed. Antibiotics do not help unless you have a bacterial infection. The condition usually resolves on its own, but monitor your symptoms in case they change. If your cough worsens, doesn't improve after a few weeks or if your mucus is yellow or green, call your doctor. If you have conditions that may be exacerbated by bronchitis, such as asthma, you may need to call your doctor sooner.

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Date Last Reviewed: October 17, 2022

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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