This is a lung condition (bronchitis) that provokes breathing problems because the trachea and bronchi get filled with mucus and inflamed. Another common bronchitis symptom is a cough. It occurs because your body can get rid of excess mucus. Furthermore, some people experience acute bronchitis, which is caused by a virus. The acute form of this condition usually goes away without treatment. If you leave bronchitis untreated it may lead to chronic bronchitis that cannot be cured.

What is Bronchitis?

Inflammation of the airways that goes to the lungs is called bronchitis. The cough is caused by an irritation of the trachea and bronchi which make them fill with mucus. Usually, the duration of cough is 14 days. One of the most common causes of bronchitis is viruses. However, other irritants and smoke can provoke acute and chronic bronchitis.

Bronchitis Types

  • Acute Bronchitis – This bronchitis type is provoked by a viral infection and mostly disappears without treatment in 1-2 weeks.
  • Chronic Bronchitis – This bronchitis type is usually diagnosed in case a person experiences a cough with mucus for 3 months out of the year and this continues for at least two years. In addition, people with chronic bronchitis may also have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). If you suspect you have COPD, visit a doctor immediately.

Who’s Affected by Bronchitis?

This lung disease can be experienced by anyone but you are at higher risk in the following cases. For example:

  • Have asthma, COPD, or other breathing issues
  • Have chronic acid reflux (GERD)
  • Using tobacco products (including cigarettes, vapes, and others)
  • Are exposed to air pollutants (such as second-hand smoke or chemicals)
  • Experience an autoimmune condition


The primary symptom of this lung condition is a cough that lasts for 2-3 weeks. An individual may also notice whistling, rattling, or wheezing sounds when breathing. Check below for other bronchitis symptoms:

  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  • Dyspnea (shortness of breath)


There are different factors that can provoke bronchitis but in most cases, this lung condition is caused by viruses. Check below for infectious and noninfectious causes of bronchitis:

  • Pollution
  • Bacteria (including Bordetella pertussis, Mycoplasma pneumonia, and Chlamydia pneumonia.
  • Smoking cigarettes or marijuana (cannabis)
  • Viruses (including influenza (the flu), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), adenovirus, rhinovirus (the common cold), and coronavirus.

Additionally, this lung condition itself is not contagious but the bacteria and viruses are.

Is Bronchitis Caused by COVID-19?

This lung condition can be caused approximately by any virus (including SARS-CoV2). Usually, this virus provokes COVID-19 and it is recommended to get tested to verify which condition you have. However, it is not sure that if you have COVID-19 you are more likely to develop bronchitis.


Doctors usually diagnose this condition based on the physical examination. They will listen to your lungs to make sure you are breathing well. You may also do some tests to check if you have viral infections (including COVID-19 or the flu). Check below some tests:

  • Chest X-ray – In case you have a cough for a longer time, you may need to do this test to check for serious diseases.
  • Nasal swab
  • Blood tests
  • Sputum test
  • Pulmonary function tests

Consult with your doctor for additional information.


If you experience bronchitis caused by a viral infection, you may not need treatment or you can administer some antivirals to make it go faster. Mostly, physicians prescribe the following medications in the bronchitis treatment. In some cases, they can direct you to take medications to treat the underlying cause. Check below the most common medicines used to treat bronchitis:

  • Antiviral medicines
  • Bronchodilators (medicines used to widen your airways)
  • Anti-inflammatory medicines
  • Cough suppressants (such as Dextromethorphan, Benzonatate, and others)
  • Antibiotics (in rare cases)
  • COPD or asthma medications

Additionally, it is very unlikely you will use antibiotics for your bronchitis because this lung disease is caused by viruses in 95% of cases.

There are some nonprescription medications that may help to lessen the symptoms (including Acetaminophen and Aspirin).


The following tips may help to reduce the risk of developing bronchitis. Examples include:

  • It is advised to avoid other sick people, especially in the winter
  • Quit smoking
  • You should avoid certain asthma and allergy triggers (including pet dander, pollen, dust, and others)
  • Have enough sleep time
  • Adopt a healthy diet
  • You can also moisture air by running a humidifier
  • Regular wash your hands with soap and warm water or use hand sanitizer with alcohol
  • Get pneumonia and flu vaccines

Frequently Asked Questions

How does bronchitis affect my body?

Your body’s defense (immune system) provokes airways to fill with mucus when they are irritated. As a result, you are coughing to get rid of mucus. However, as long you’ll have the airways inflamed and filled with mucus, as long you will cough.

How long is a person with acute bronchitis contagious?

If you experience bronchitis due to a virus, you are contagious for approximately 5-7 days. In any case, if the bronchitis is caused by bacteria, you will stop being contagious roughly 24 hours after using antibiotics. In addition, other bronchitis causes are not contagious.

What are the complications of bronchitis?

If you are experiencing diabetes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or heart failure, bronchitis may worsen previous health conditions. It is advised to inform your doctor if you experience any of the diseases listed above.

When should I see my healthcare professional about bronchitis?

If you notice any of the following symptoms, immediately contact your physician. Examples include:

  • Cough (for more than 3 weeks)
  • Fever of 102 F or 38.9 C and it lasts five days or more
  • Bloody cough
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath

If you have any other questions, ask your healthcare provider.

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