By Apollo 24|7, Published on- 29 December 2022 & Updated on - 13 February 2024

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Symptoms: Cough, production of mucus, shortness of breath, chest discomforts, sore throat, runny nose, fatigue
Causes: Virus, bacteria, air pollution, inhalation of toxic gases
Risk Factors: Individuals who smoke cigarettes, weak immunity, regular exposure to chemicals or irritants, frequent heartburn, exposure to pollution

Prevalence: 3.1%: 3.6% for males and 2.6% for females, as per a study in 2017.
Severity: Mild to severe
Which doctor to consult: General Physician or Pulmonologist


Bronchi are large tubes that are the central airways of the lungs. They connect to the trachea and allow the flow of air to the right and left lungs. Bronchitis is a condition wherein these airways are inflamed and irritated. Mucus is produced in the walls of the bronchi to trap irritants and prevent them from getting into the lungs. However, swelling and inflammation of the airways change the functioning of the respiratory system. The airways produce more mucus, which is often let out through coughing. In bronchitis, coughing can also manifest as a dry cough without mucus. Bronchitis can affect individuals differently, depending on their age. The two most common types of bronchitis are acute and chronic bronchitis. Acute bronchitis is temporary. Home remedies or a routine of antibiotics can help clear up cases of acute bronchitis within a few weeks. Acute bronchitis is often called a chest cold since it develops after a cold or the flu. Chronic bronchitis is a type of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). This condition fills your lungs with thick mucus, and individuals experience severe coughs for almost two or three months at a stretch every year. The situation worsens if it is not diagnosed and treated early. Acute bronchitis caused by infectious viruses can be contagious. One of the most common reasons for bronchitis is it spreads from one infected individual to another. So, it is advised to isolate oneself if an individual is diagnosed with acute bronchitis. However, chronic bronchitis is not contagious. Bronchitis can affect individuals of all ages, but it is more common among children under the age of five years. Individuals with asthma or other breathing problems are more at risk of bronchitis. They can help to rule out other lung infections like pneumonia or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and identify underlying health disorders.


While mild symptoms of bronchitis can be treated at home, it is advised to visit a general practitioner for severe symptoms. The symptoms of bronchitis are common to cold and flu. So, what starts as the flu is often diagnosed as bronchitis after monitoring the signs. The common symptoms of bronchitis include:

A persistent cough, which may be dry or produce mucus
Sore throat
Fever and chills
Fatigue or body pain
Blocked nose
Slight breathing issues
Discomfort in chest

The symptoms may be severe or mild and vary for every patient. Some patients may experience one or a few symptoms, while others may experience all the signs.
In case the symptoms are mild, staying home and getting adequate rest is advised.

When to Consult a Doctor?

An individual should consider visiting a general physician when the symptoms get worse. For instance, patients with severe symptoms may cough up blood with mucus. Sometimes, the cough may last for several weeks, or the patient might have a high fever for days. 


Your healthcare provider can determine if you have bronchitis based on your health history and symptoms. They'll listen to your lungs for signs of congestion and ensure you're breathing properly. They may test you for viral infections like the flu or COVID-19.

Lab Tests:

There are no specific tests for bronchitis, but you may be tested for other conditions. Possible tests include:

A nasal swab: To test for viruses such as COVID-19 or the flu, your healthcare provider may insert a soft-tipped swab into your nose.
Chest x-ray: If your cough persists for an extended period of time, you may need a chest X-ray to rule out any serious conditions. Your healthcare provider will use a machine to take images of your heart and lungs. They will look for signs of other diseases that may be causing your symptoms.
Blood tests: Your provider may perform blood tests with a needle in your arm to look for infections or to assess your overall health.

Sputum test: Your provider may ask you to cough and then spit into a tube. Your sample will be examined for evidence of a virus or bacteria.
Pulmonary function tests: If your doctor believes you have chronic bronchitis, they may use a machine to assess how well your lungs function.


There are several treatment options for patients with bronchitis. Home care is effective for mild symptoms, but medication may be required if the symptoms persist.

Home Care: Home remedies are popular in treating bronchitis. While there are traditional treatments like sipping ginger tea or having turmeric milk to clear the congestion of the airways, experts suggest several home care methods that can cure the symptoms within a week. Some popular advice for patients with bronchitis is given below:
Regular intake of steam can clear the mucus and promote better breathing;
Using salt water to gargle, as it can provide relief to sore throat from coughing;
Quitting smoking and avoiding passive smoking;
Following a healthy and clean diet to boost immunity;
Wearing a mask to cover mouth and nose while stepping out;
Getting plenty of rest and sleep.

Medication: Most likely, your doctor will not prescribe medications to treat your bronchitis. In some cases, medications can help you with symptoms or treat the underlying cause, including: 
Antiviral medications: If you have bronchitis caused by the flu, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication such as Oseltamivir, Zanamivir, or Peramivir. If you begin taking antivirals soon after your symptoms appear, you may feel better sooner. 
Bronchodilators: If you are having difficulty breathing, your doctor may prescribe a bronchodilator (salbutamol, formoterol) (a medication that helps open your airways). 

Anti-inflammatory medications: To reduce inflammation, your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids and other medications.
Cough suppressants: Over-the-counter or prescription cough suppressants (antitussives) may alleviate a persistent cough. This includes benzonatate and dextromethorphan.
Antibiotics. Unless your doctor suspects a bacterial infection, you are unlikely to be given antibiotics for bronchitis.
COPD/asthma treatment: If you have COPD or asthma, your doctor may recommend additional medications or breathing treatments for chronic bronchitis.

Surgical Treatment: Surgery may be the only option if the severe symptoms of bronchitis do not go away after treatment. Lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS) is a surgery that removes damaged lung tissues from the lung. The surgery is often followed up by pulmonary rehabilitation. This therapy includes helping the patient practice some breathing exercises and exercise techniques.

Alternative Management: Severe symptoms of bronchitis require immediate medical care. While medication can cure the symptoms, alternative management is often followed to treat chronic bronchitis. Individuals trust aromatherapy to relieve bronchitis symptoms. A humidifier with essential oils at night or during yoga helps to thin mucus and reduce cough. Popular essential oils such as cedarwood, lavender, mint, tea tree, and orange oil are often infused in humidifiers. An aromatherapist can help an individual choose the correct oil depending on his/her symptoms and health condition. Yoga therapy also helps individuals to regulate their breathing capacity and improve the functioning of the lungs. Individuals practice yoga under experts to manage breathing trouble and headaches and promote better sleep. 

Risks & Complications if Left Untreated

Bronchitis, when not diagnosed, can complicate health issues and prove detrimental to the health of an individual’s respiratory system. The symptoms of bronchitis are similar to those of a common cold or flu. Therefore, individuals tend to think that the issue will resolve itself within a few days. However, if left untreated, bronchitis can also cause permanent damage to the lungs. Usually, bronchitis caused by bacteria or viral infection turns into pneumonia. The infection in the airways spreads into the lungs, which results in pneumonia. Hence, the pneumonia vaccine is often recommended for individuals with lung problems. Since bronchitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the bronchi, it restricts the movement of oxygen in the airways. Over time, this gradual damage to the lungs extends into permanent damage, and an individual might experience decreased lung functioning. These problems become more prominent if the individual has asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, or related health issues. Another common complication of bronchitis is an ear infection or sinusitis. This is found more commonly among children.

Additional Information

The primary causes of bronchitis include:
Virus or bacteria
The most common cause of bronchitis is smoking cigarettes. Harmful irritants, chemical fumes, and pollution are also responsible for the diseases. However, this does not mean non-smokers do not get bronchitis. Smokers usually get chronic bronchitis. Different viruses or bacteria usually cause acute bronchitis. The common viruses and bacteria include influenza (the flu), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), adenovirus, rhinovirus (the common cold), Bordetella pertussis, Mycoplasma pneumonia and Chlamydia pneumonia, respectively. Genetics also play a role here. A family history of respiratory diseases or repeated bronchitis episodes indicates a high risk for an individual.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1.What should i avoid if i have bronchitis?

Individuals with bronchitis should avoid dust, cigarette smoke, chemical fumes, alcohol, caffeine, and anything that irritates their lungs and gives them cold. Also, travelling to cold places or exposure to cold can worsen bronchitis. It's best to wear a mask if an individual cannot avoid pollution or cold air.

In most cases, bronchitis is caused by different viruses. Sometimes, the same virus causes the flu and the common cold. In these cases, the disease remains contagious for a few weeks. The virus can quickly spread through coughing or sneezing. 

Acute bronchitis affects individuals of all ages. However, young children under the age of five are more susceptible to the disease. Individuals who get cold or fever easily often get bronchitis. Also, an individual can get the disease if he/she is around somebody with bronchitis.

No, taking antibiotics will not help you get over bronchitis in most situations. Antibiotics are used to kill the bacteria that cause illness. A virus is responsible for 95% of all cases of bronchitis. Antibiotics are ineffective at eliminating viruses.