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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

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When a Cold Becomes Bronchitis

What Are the Symptoms of Bronchitis?

Symptoms of bronchitis include:

  • A cough that is frequent and produces mucus
  • A lack of energy
  • A wheezing sound when breathing
  • A fever

Should I Call the Doctor About Bronchitis?

See your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:

  • A cough that lasts more than two to three weeks
  • A fever
  • A cough that produces blood or thick or colored mucous
  • Any shortness of breath or wheezing

Can I Treat Bronchitis at Home?

If you have bronchitis you should:

  • Drink fluids every one to two hours unless your doctor has restricted your fluid intake
  • Rest
  • Don't smoke
  • Relieve body aches by taking aspirin or acetaminophen. (If you are taking any other drugs, talk to your doctor to make sure aspirin or acetaminophen doesn't interfere with them. Children should NOT take aspirin. Also, the consumer healthcare products association (CHPA) manufacturers has stated that over-the-counter cough and cold medicines should not be given to children under 4.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions on ways to help clear your mucus.
  • If you are coughing up mucus, note how often you cough as well as the color and amount of the mucus. Report this to your doctor.

If you have a dry cough and cough up little to no mucus, your doctor may prescribe a cough medicine to suppress your cough. He or she may also prescribe an expectorant to help loosen mucus so it can be more easily coughed up.

Because viruses cause most cases of bronchitis, antibiotics will not usually be useful or necessary. Exceptions would be bronchitis caused by a bacterial infection or bronchitis in a person who has impaired lung function.

How Can I Avoid Getting Bronchitis?

  • Don't smoke.
  • Don't allow others to smoke in your home.
  • Stay away from or reduce your time around things that irritate your nose, throat, and lungs, such as dust or pets.
  • If you catch a cold, get plenty of rest.
  • Take your medicine exactly the way your doctor tells you.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Do not share food, cups, glasses, or eating utensils.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on October 01, 2014
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