The symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, include fever, fatigue, a cough, shortness of breath, body aches, and a sore throat. These can also happen with other conditions, including bronchitis. It’s hard to tell what you have just by how you feel.
Bronchitis is the general term for inflammation of the cells lining the tubes that carry air to and from your lungs. The main symptom is a deep cough that comes on fast. It can start as a dry, hacking cough, but you’ll usually start noticing mucus. Other symptoms might include:
- Shortness of breath
- Slight fever and chills
- Chest discomfort
- Cold symptoms, such as a mild headache or body aches
You might have a cough for a few weeks or months after your other symptoms clear up.
To be on the safe side, call your doctor to discuss your symptoms. Other signs of COVID-19 may include:
- Loss of taste or smell
- Congestion or a runny nose
- Stomach problems like pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Skin rash
Acute bronchitis is something that comes up suddenly and doesn’t last that long. Some people call it a chest cold. It’s usually caused by the same viruses that cause colds and the flu. But it can also be a symptom of COVID-19.
Coronaviruses and other viruses that affect your respiratory system can cause bronchitis. This can sometimes lead to pneumonia, an infection of the tiny air sacs in your lungs. Pneumonia usually causes a wet cough, fever, and trouble breathing. These symptoms can be severe and dangerous without treatment.
It can be easy to mistake symptoms of a cold, the flu, or bronchitis for COVID-19. This is especially tricky because the symptoms of COVID-19 can be mild. You won’t be able to tell if COVID-19 is causing your symptoms without a lab test for the virus. Your doctor can help you know if you need a test.
Bronchitis doesn’t cause COVID-19 or make you more likely to get it. But if you have chronic bronchitis or other health problems, you’re more likely to get very sick if you do catch COVID-19. (Many conditions put people at higher risk with COVID-19.)
Research shows that almost half of people who have COVID-19 have mild symptoms but can still spread the virus. So if you’ve had chronic bronchitis or other lung problems like asthma or lung disease, take extra care to not get sick. This means you should, like everyone else, make sure to:
- Wash your hands often and/or use hand sanitizer.
- Try not to touch your face.
- Stay away from people who are sick, even with mild colds.
- Avoid contact with anyone who has traveled in the past 2 weeks.
- Follow local instructions about going out in public, including social distancing.
- Wear a face mask when you go out.
- Wash your hands after touching animals.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces often.
If you think you might have come into contact with the virus, check your temperature every day and keep an eye out for symptoms. About 97% of people who get sick show symptoms within 2 weeks of being exposed. If you feel ill, call your doctor to talk about the next steps. If you start to have chest pain, tightness, or trouble breathing, get medical care as soon as possible.