What Are the Symptoms of Bronchitis?

Your bronchial tubes, which carry air to your lungs, can get infected and swollen. When that happens, it’s called bronchitis. Symptoms of this condition include a nagging cough, and you might hack up mucus that’s yellow or green.

There are actually two types of bronchitis:

  • Acute bronchitis: This is the more common type. Symptoms last for a few weeks, but it doesn’t usually cause any problems past that.
  • Chronic bronchitis: This keeps coming back or doesn’t go away at all. It’s more serious, and it’s one of the conditions that makes up something called “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” or COPD. You are more likely to have this if you smoke.

Learn to watch for the signs of bronchitis and when to call a doctor.

Symptoms of Acute Bronchitis

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between bronchitis and other conditions that affect your lungs and breathing. It often starts with the symptoms of a cold: your nose is runny, your throat sore, and you feel run-down.

One of the hallmark signs of bronchitis is a hacking cough that lasts for 5 days or more. Here are some other symptoms:

  • Clear, yellow, white, or green phlegm
  • No fever, although you might have a low fever at times
  • Tenderness or soreness in your chest when you cough
  • You feel tired all the time
  • Whistling or wheezing while you breath
  • A rattling feeling in your chest
  • Chills

Symptoms of Chronic Bronchitis

If you have symptoms that last longer than 3 months, you might have a chronic case. Some signs include:

  • A stubborn cough with clear, yellow, white, or green phlegm (for at least 3 months of the year, and for more than 2 years in a row)
  • Wheezing
  • Chest discomfort

​​​​​​​When to Call the Doctor

You should see your doctor if you have symptoms of acute bronchitis and also have ongoing lung, heart or other medical problems or are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Other times you should call your doctor:

  • Your cough is so ongoing or severe that you can’t sleep well or do your daily activities.
  • Your cough keeps you awake at night.
  • You cough up blood or mucus.
  • Your cough lasts longer than a week. In otherwise healthy people, a cough from acute bronchitis can last 3 weeks.
  • Your mucus becomes darker, thicker or increases in volume.
  • Your cough has a barking sound and makes it hard to speak.
  • It comes along with unexplained weight loss.

If you have a fever above 100.4 F and a loss of appetite, wheezing or shortness of breath, and general achiness, see your doctor right away. Pneumonia may be the cause of your symptoms.

Call 911 if you have chest pain or a hard time breathing.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on December 06, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

Mayo Clinic: “Bronchitis”

American Lung Association: “Acute Bronchitis Symptoms”

Merck Manuals: “Symptoms of Acute Bronchitis.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Bronchitis

FamilyDoctor.org: “What are the Symptoms of acute bronchitis?”

NIH. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: “What are the Signs and Symptoms of Bronchitis?”

American Journal of Managed Care: “Acute Exacerbation of Chronic Bronchitis: A Primary Care Consensus Guideline.”

Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials: “Antibiotics for acute bronchitis.”

Comprehensive Therapy: “Acute bronchitis: State of the art diagnosis and therapy.”

American Journal of Geriatric Society : “Office Evaluation and Treatment of Elderly Patients with Acute Bronchitis.”

European Respiratory Journal: “Chronic bronchitis among French adults: high prevalence and underdiagnosis.”

National Institutes of Health -- Centers for Disease Control. Goldman. Goldman's Cecil Medicine, 24th ed.

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