Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of your bronchial tubes, which carries air to and from your lungs. It can either be acute or chronic.

Editor’s Picks

See our selection of the best online healthcare providers - hand-chosen by our expert team!
Antidote Health
Antidote Health review
Online Doctors
Special Offer
$10 OFF 1st VISIT
Why We Like Them
Get $10 OFF WITH CODE RELIEFSEEKER! Antidote Health offers single online doctor visits & online doctor memberships to give you fast, easy, and affordable access to care!
visit  Antidote Health

Virtual Doctor

Message, voice, or video chat with a medical professional.
Online Doctor Consultation

Support Groups

Meet & connect with others in your situation.
Support Groups
Table of content

What is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of your bronchial tubes, which carries air to and from your lungs. Usually, when people have bronchitis, they often cough up thick or discolored mucus. Bronchitis can be acute or chronic and if left untreated can become a major nuisance. Bronchitis is most often developed from a cold (viral infection) or other respiratory infections. 

Acute Bronchitis

Acute Bronchitis is very common and is more so referred to as a chest cold and if treated appropriately can improve within a week to ten days without lasting effects. Your cough may linger for a few weeks afterward, but it is suggested that you try not to worry too much about this, as it’s pretty normal. 

It is important to remember that if you have repeated rounds of acute bronchitis or if your bronchitis persists longer than ten days, you may have chronic bronchitis, which typically requires medical attention. 

Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis, a more serious condition, is a constant or persistent irritation or inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes. Chronic bronchitis is often due to prolonged smoking. Chronic bronchitis never goes away, and unfortunately, a person lives with it constantly. It may get better or worse depending on the time of year and how healthy a lifestyle a person lives.

Symptoms of Bronchitis

Symptoms of acute and chronic bronchitis can include:

  • Tight feeling in the chest

  • Low-grade fever and chills

  • Persistent cough, which can produce mucus or phlegm 

  • Discolored mucus 

  • Wheezing

  • Sore throat

  • Headaches

  • Body aches

  • Blocked nasal passageways

Bronchitis is not the only health-related issue that causes a cough and a cough that refuses to go away may be a sign of other conditions, such as asthma, the flu, or pneumonia. It is suggested by the CDC that you see a doctor as soon as possible if you have a cough that persists longer than a week. 

Acute Bronchitis Symptoms

Acute bronchitis usually lasts for a specific length of time and can cause a person to experience:

  • A cough with or without phlegm

  • Shortness of breath

  • Discomfort in the chest

  • Fever

  • Mild headache or body aches

Chronic Bronchitis Symptoms

Chronic bronchitis has the same or similar symptoms as acute bronchitis. However, chronic bronchitis is an ongoing illness. One thing that sets these two illnesses apart is that a person with chronic bronchitis has a daily and productive cough for at least three months out of the year. 

What Causes Bronchitis?

Bronchitis typically occurs when a virus, bacteria, or irritant particles trigger an inflammation of the bronchial tubes. Smokers are at higher risk for developing bronchitis, however, non-smokers can also develop this illness. 

Acute bronchitis can be caused by a preexisting virus, such as a cold or the flu, a bacterial infection, or prolonged exposure to things that irritate the lungs, like tobacco smoke, dust, or air pollution. 

Chronic bronchitis is caused by repeated irritation and damage to the lungs and airway tissue, with the most common cause being from smoking tobacco. You are more prone to developing chronic bronchitis if you have a history of respiratory disease or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). 

When to See a Doctor for Bronchitis

According to the Mayo Clinic, it is recommended to make an online doctor’s appointment for symptoms of bronchitis if:

  • Your cough doesn’t improve after 10 days

  • Sleeping becomes uncomfortable due to your coughing

  • You have chest pain accompanied by coughing or difficulty breathing

  • You have unexplained weight loss

  • You have a fever over 100.4 F

  • You’re wheezing or feel as though you can’t breath

  • There’s blood in your mucus