Skip to content

    Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

    Font Size

    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 Jennifer Robinson, MD on October 18, 2016
    1 | 2

    Today on WebMD

    man coughing
    You may not even know you have it.
    blood clot
    Signs of this potentially fatal complication.
    man coughing
    When a cold becomes bronchitis.
    human lungs
    Causes behind painful breathing, fluid buildup.

    chest x-ray
    Bronchitis Overview
    Copd Myth Fact Quiz
    Energy Boosting Foods

    woman coughing
    Lung xray and caduceus