What is bronchitis?

Often progressing from a traditional cold or upper respiratory infection, bronchitis is a form of chest infection that inflames the bronchial tubes located in the upper part of the chest that take in air when you breathe in and out. In most cases, bronchitis is caused by viruses, so antibiotics are not an effective treatment.

When you have bronchitis, your airways become swollen and produce excess mucus, leading to chest soreness, excessive coughing, and increased breathing difficulty. If you think you might have bronchitis, read on to learn about the symptoms, prevention, and treatment.


What are the symptoms of bronchitis?

Bronchitis symptoms generally can last up to three weeks. The following symptoms are most common:


  • Chest congestion
  • Body aches
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Low-grade fever
  • Headache


  • Coughing (dry or with mucus)
  • Chest soreness
  • Wheezing
  • Fatigue

You should consult a physician about symptoms related to bronchitis if you have any of the following medical conditions or habits, as they could lead to more severe complications:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Smoking or vaping
  • Heart failure
  • Other heart and lung conditions


How is bronchitis prevented?

Washing your hands regularly with soap and warm water is the best way to prevent sickness and the spread of germs. Avoiding smoking and vaping also helps prevent bronchitis.

Bronchitis can progress from a cold or respiratory infection. Take steps to combat other infections by taking an over-the-counter decongestant or using saline nasal drops when you have a cold. In addition to eliminating obvious irritants, like smoke, avoid irritants such as:

  • Dust
  • Mold
  • Pet dander
  • Air pollution
  • Cleaners


How is bronchitis treated?

See your physician to help determine if your symptoms are caused by bronchitis or by another, potentially more serious, illness. Typically, bronchitis is treated with over-the-counter cough medications as well as plenty of rest and fluids. Since bronchitis is most often caused by a virus and not bacteria, it is generally not treated with antibiotics. If wheezing is a prominent symptom, an asthma inhaler may be prescribed. It is important to stay well hydrated with increased water intake and to use a vaporizer.

Most bronchitis infections clear up within 7 to 10 days; however, a dry cough can persist for a few weeks. A persistent or increasing fever, a continuing productive cough, an increase in shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, and persistent wheezing or other chest sounds may be symptoms of pneumonia. Seek further medical attention if any of the following occurs:

  • Symptoms worsen or do not improve in five to seven days
  • Symptoms last longer than three weeks
  • Fever reaches 100.4° Fahrenheit or higher
  • Cough produces bloody mucus
  • Breathing becomes difficult (or any shortness of breath)
  • Bronchitis episodes become frequent

Patient First treats many conditions at our urgent care centers including bronchitis. You can visit any Patient First center from 8am to 8pm, any day of the week – no appointment is needed