How do I know if I have bronchitis?

Bronchitis is irritation and inflammation of the airways that bring air in and out of the lungs. We usually notice it because of the persistent cough and the production of mucus in the chest. Is it a contagious disease?

Bronchitis is a relatively short-term illness that usually results from a viral infection and does not require antibiotic treatment. We can recover in a period of days to weeks.

What is?

The bronchi carry air from the trachea to the lungs. When these ducts become inflamed, mucus can build up. This condition is called bronchitis and it causes symptoms that may include cough, shortness of breath, and a low-grade fever.

Bronchitis can be of two types:

  • The acute one usually lasts less than 10 days, but the cough can continue for several weeks.
  • Chronic , on the other hand, can last for several weeks and usually comes back. This condition is more common in people with asthma or emphysema.


Causes of acute bronchitis include viral and bacterial infections, environmental factors, and other lung conditions.

  • Viral infection : Viruses cause 85 to 95 percent of cases of acute bronchitis in adults. The same viruses that cause the common cold or the flu can cause the acute version.
  • Bacterial infection – In rare cases, bacterial bronchitis can develop after a viral bronchitis infection. This can result from infections with bacteria such as Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Chlamydia pneumoniae, and Bordetella pertussis (which causes whooping cough).
  • Irritants – Breathing irritants such as fumes, pollen, or chemical vapors can cause inflammation in the trachea and bronchi. This can lead to acute bronchitis.
  • Other lung conditions : People with the chronic version or asthma sometimes develop acute bronchitis. In these cases, acute is unlikely to be contagious because it is not caused by an infection.


The first symptoms of acute bronchitis are similar to those of a cold or flu.

That is, the first signs are usually:

  • Runny nose
  • Throat pain
  • Fatigue
  • sneezing
  • wheezing
  • feel cold easily
  • Back and muscle pain
  • Fever from 37.7°C to 38°C

After the initial infection, a cough will probably develop. The cough is likely to be dry at first and then become productive, meaning it will produce mucus. A productive cough is the most common symptom of acute bronchitis and can last from 10 days to three weeks.

Another symptom you may notice is a color change in the mucus, from white to green or yellow. This does not mean that the infection is viral or bacterial. It simply means that the immune system is working to fight it off.

However, there are some symptoms that can generate alert. We must be vigilant if there is unexplained weight loss, a deep cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, a fever of 38°C or higher, and a cough that lasts more than 10 days. In this case, it is recommended to go to the emergency room doctor.

Children can develop acute bronchitis with an infection, and it is rare for a child to develop chronic bronchitis. In addition to the usual symptoms of acute bronchitis, children are more likely to vomit with acute bronchitis because they may swallow sputum. Vomiting can occur suddenly and without warning, along with a retching cough.

bronquitis aguda o cronica


Unless the symptoms are severe, there is not much the doctor can do to treat acute bronchitis. In most cases, treatment consists largely of home care.

home treatment

These steps should help ease symptoms as we get better:

  • Taking over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, which can relieve a sore throat.
  • Get a humidifier to create moisture in the air. This can help loosen mucus in your nasal passages and chest, making it easier to breathe.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, such as water or tea, to thin the mucus. This makes it easier to cough it up or blow it out through your nose.
  • Add ginger to tea or hot water. Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory that can soothe irritated and inflamed bronchial tubes.
  • Consume dark honey to calm the cough. Honey also soothes the throat and has antiviral and antibacterial properties.

These tips can help relieve most symptoms, but if you experience wheezing or shortness of breath, it’s recommended that you speak to a doctor. A doctor may prescribe inhaled medications to help open the airways.

antibiotics for bronchitis

When we feel sick, we can expect a doctor to prescribe medicine to make us feel better.

However, it is important to know that antibiotics are not recommended for people with acute bronchitis. Most cases of the condition are caused by viruses, and antibiotics do not work against viruses, so medications would not help you.

However, if we have acute bronchitis and a high risk of pneumonia, our doctor may prescribe antibiotics during cold and flu season. This is because acute bronchitis can develop into pneumonia, and antibiotics may help prevent this from happening.

Acute bronchitis vs pneumonia

Both bronchitis and pneumonia are infections in the lungs. Two of the main differences between these conditions are what causes them and what part of the lungs they affect.

Bronchitis is usually caused by viruses, but it can also be caused by bacteria or irritants. However, pneumonia is most often caused by bacteria, but it can also be caused by viruses or other germs.

On the other hand, bronchitis causes inflammation in the bronchial tubes. These are tubes connected to your trachea that carry air to your lungs. They branch into smaller tubes called bronchioles. Instead, pneumonia causes inflammation in the alveoli. These are small sacs at the ends of the bronchioles.

The treatment is different for these two conditions, so it is recommended to speak with a doctor to make the correct diagnosis.

How to prevent?

Acute bronchitis is contagious . This is because it is caused by a short-term infection that can spread from person to person. The infection can be spread through droplets of mucus discharged by coughing, sneezing, or talking. Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, is not contagious as it is not caused by an infection. Rather, it is caused by long-term inflammation, which is usually the result of irritants like smoking. Also, the inflammation cannot be spread to another person.

There is no way to completely prevent acute bronchitis because it has a variety of causes. However, we can reduce the risk by following these tips:

  • Get enough sleep.
  • Avoid touching our mouth, nose or eyes if we are close to people with bronchitis.
  • Avoid sharing glasses or utensils.
  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, especially during the cold season.
  • Quit smoking or avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Eat a balanced diet to keep your body as healthy as possible.
  • Get vaccinated against the flu, pneumonia, and whooping cough.
  • Limit exposure to airborne irritants such as dust, chemical fumes, and other pollutants. Wear a mask, if necessary.


There are several serious complications of bronchitis, but they are not common. Complications can occur with chronic or acute bronchitis, but are much more likely to occur as a result of chronic bronchitis due to the prolonged impact of the disease.

  • Infection – We may become more susceptible to another respiratory tract infection if you have bronchitis. If we get another infection while we have acute bronchitis, we can delay recovery. If we develop a respiratory infection when we have chronic bronchitis, this can lead to an attack of acute bronchitis in addition to the chronic disease. An episode of acute bronchitis is likely to be more severe and last longer than chronic bronchitis.
  • Pneumonia – If we have bronchitis of any kind, the lungs are more likely to become infected, leading to pneumonia. Pneumonia is a long-term infection that makes you feel sicker than acute bronchitis.
  • Aspiration pneumonia : The cough from bronchitis can cause us to choke on food if we cough while eating. This can cause the food we eat to go down the wrong tube, into the lungs instead of the stomach. Aspiration pneumonia can be a persistent infection that affects your health and takes months to recover from.
  • Heart disease – Long-term breathing difficulties from chronic bronchitis can put extra pressure on the heart, causing heart disease or exacerbating heart failure.

A cough from bronchitis may be worse at night because the airways tend to be more sensitive and prone to irritation when the airway muscles are relaxed. At night (or anytime we’re lying down) we can feel more congested because mucus can build up in the upper respiratory tract.