Bronchitis is the inflammation/swelling of the bronchial tubes, which convey air from your mouth or nose to your lungs. There are two types of bronchitis: acute and chronic.
- Acute bronchitis is characterized by a cough with mucus, chest soreness or discomfort, shortness of breath and fever. It’s usually caused by a viral infection, cold or flu. It can last from five days to several weeks.
- Chronic bronchitis is a serious illness with a cough accompanied by mucus. It’s usually caused by the repeated irritation of tissues of the bronchial tubes. Smoking and exposure to polluted air are major causes. It continues for more than three months with a variety of breathing difficulties.
Never Miss a Beat!
Subscribe to Our HealthBeat Newsletter!
Thank you for subscribing!
You can now select the specific newsletters you'd like to receive.
You are already subscribed.
Subscribe to more newsletters in our email preference center.
Sorry, an error occurred. Please try again later.
Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!
What Are the Symptoms of Bronchitis?
Some of the symptoms of acute and chronic bronchitis are:
- A persistent cough with mucus
- Tightening of the chest
- Head and body aches
- Blockage in the nose
- Sore chest and throat
- Fever and chills, especially at night
- Wheezing and breathlessness
A major sign of acute bronchitis is a persistent cough that goes on for a few weeks. It may last longer, and the symptoms tend to worsen during the winter months.
Are Bronchitis Symptoms Contagious?
Acute bronchitis, which is caused by flu or cold viruses, is contagious simply because these viruses are also contagious. However, they typically die off after a few weeks. On the other hand, chronic bronchitis isn’t contagious. Since it’s a very serious health condition, it still requires instant medical attention.
How Long Does Bronchitis Last?
Most acute bronchitis cases last between 5 and 10 days. But, a cough could persist for several weeks after the infection has disappeared. If your cough continues for more than four to six weeks after you’ve been diagnosed, contact your physician promptly. If the initial symptoms return after treatment, you may have another infection — consult with your health care provider again.
How to Treat Bronchitis
If you’re suffering from bronchitis, your physician will ask you to rest, increase your fluid intake, and make sure you inhale warm, moist air. Your doctor may also prescribe pain relievers and cough suppressants to ease your discomfort and make breathing easier.
Chronic bronchitis is treated by keeping the symptoms under control and providing relief to the patient. That’s why a physician could prescribe any of the following drugs:
- Cough medicine. This is to reduce the frequency of a cough and aid the removal of mucus or irritants from the lungs.
- Antibiotics. These will help to treat bacterial infections, but they don’t have much effect on cold or flu viruses. They can also help to prevent complications.
- Bronchodilators. These will open the bronchial tubes and help to clear out excess mucus.
- Anti-inflammatory medicine. When there are severe and persistent symptoms, these help to reduce chronic inflammation and prevent damage to bronchial tissues.
- Oxygen therapy. When breathing becomes very difficult, this will help to increase the amount of oxygen inhaled into the lungs.
- Mucolytics. These will thin out the mucus and make it easier to cough it up.
Connect with UPMC
About Primary Care
The relationship with a patient and their primary care doctor can be extremely valuable, and that’s what you get with UPMC Primary Care. When you work with a primary care physician (PCP), you develop a lasting relationship. Your doctor will get to know you and your history and can plan your treatments accordingly. Our PCPs offer a variety of services, including preventive care and treatment for both urgent and chronic conditions. With dozens of UPMC Primary Care locations across our network of care, you can find a PCP close to you. Schedule an appointment today.