man holding his chest in pain

Bronchitis: Types, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

man holding his chest in pain

Bronchitis is an infection of the bronchial tubes, the airways that carry air to your lungs. It is a common condition and can be either acute or chronic. Symptoms may include coughing, chest pain, fatigue, and difficulty breathing. There are many treatment options for bronchitis, depending on the type and severity of the condition.

This blog post will discuss the different types of bronchitis, their symptoms, and available treatment options.

Types of Bronchitis

Bronchitis is an infection of the lungs that a variety of factors can cause. There are two main types of bronchitis – acute and chronic.

A viral infection usually causes acute bronchitis, but bacterial or fungal infections can also cause it. Symptoms of acute bronchitis can include a dry or wet cough, sore throat, fatigue, chest pain, and fever. Treatment for acute bronchitis typically includes rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medications.

Chronic bronchitis is a more serious form of the condition that typically develops from prolonged smoking or exposure to air pollution. Symptoms can include persistent cough with mucus, shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing, and fatigue. Treatment for chronic bronchitis usually involves antibiotics, steroids, and respiratory therapy. Surgery may sometimes be needed to remove the excess mucus in the lungs.

Acute Bronchitis

Acute bronchitis is an infection of the bronchi, the main airways in the lungs, which causes inflammation and irritation. Acute bronchitis typically lasts a few weeks and can cause coughing, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

man sitting on a couch and coughing

The most common cause of acute bronchitis is a virus, such as a cold, flu, or adenovirus. Bacteria may also cause acute bronchitis, as can other agents, such as pollutants or dust.

The most common symptom of acute bronchitis is a dry, hacking cough that lasts several days or weeks. Other symptoms include chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, a low-grade fever, and fatigue. The cough may become wet and productive, with yellow or green mucus being coughed up.

People who smoke are at an increased risk of developing acute bronchitis. People with weakened immune systems also more susceptible. Additionally, exposure to pollutants, chemicals, and dust can also increase one’s risk of developing acute bronchitis.

In order to diagnose acute bronchitis, a doctor may ask questions about the patient’s medical history and symptoms and perform a physical exam. A chest x-ray or sputum test may also be used to rule out any other conditions.

The treatment for acute bronchitis depends on the underlying cause. If caused by a virus, symptoms typically usually go away on their own with rest and over-the-counter medications. If caused by bacteria, antibiotics may be prescribed. Inhaled medications may also be used to reduce inflammation and open up the airways. If smoking is causing bronchitis, quitting is essential to recovery.

Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis is a type of respiratory disorder defined by an inflammation of the mucus membrane lining of the bronchial tubes. These tubes are the main pathways that carry air to the lungs. In chronic bronchitis, coughing and difficulty breathing are common due to a buildup of mucus in the airways. People with chronic bronchitis may also experience difficulty sleeping, chest tightness, and fatigue.

woman coughing into his elbow

The primary cause of chronic bronchitis is long-term exposure to airway irritants, such as cigarette smoke, dust, fumes, and industrial pollutants. Bacterial or viral infections can also contribute to the inflammation of the bronchial tubes.

Common symptoms of chronic bronchitis include frequent coughing with clear or yellowish mucus, chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, difficulty sleeping due to coughing, and fatigue.

People with a history of smoking are at a higher risk for developing chronic bronchitis. Those who live in areas with high levels of air pollution and those who work in environments with toxic fumes may also be more likely to develop this condition.

A doctor will usually perform a physical examination and listen to your lungs with a stethoscope. They may also order blood tests, chest X-rays, or pulmonary function tests.

Treatment for chronic bronchitis depends on the severity of the condition and the underlying cause. The goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation and improve breathing. Common treatments include:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Avoiding exposure to irritants
  • Taking antibiotics or steroids if necessary
  • Taking medication to loosen mucus and reduce inflammation

In some cases, oxygen therapy may be recommended to improve lung function.

Comparison of Acute and Chronic Bronchitis

Acute and chronic bronchitis are both conditions that affect the lungs, but there are some important differences between them. Acute bronchitis is a short-term condition that occurs when the airways become inflamed due to a virus or bacteria. It is typically caused by a common cold, flu, or other respiratory infections. Symptoms may include coughing, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and congestion. Acute bronchitis usually resolves within a few weeks, although it can last up to 8 weeks.

Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, is a long-term condition in which the airways become inflamed and narrowed due to the accumulation of mucus. It is usually caused by exposure to irritants such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, dust, or chemicals. Symptoms may include coughing, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and wheezing. Chronic bronchitis may last for months or even years and can be difficult to treat.

Despite their differences, acute and chronic bronchitis do have some similarities. Both conditions involve inflammation of the airways, which causes narrowing and difficulty breathing. Both can also cause coughing and chest pain. In addition, both conditions are usually caused by either viruses or environmental irritants. Treatment for both conditions typically involves rest, hydration, and medication to help relieve symptoms.

Risk Factors for Bronchitis

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways in the lungs, which can be either acute or chronic. Risk factors for developing bronchitis include smoking, exposure to irritants, age, weakened immune system, family history, and other medical conditions.


Smoking is the biggest risk factor for developing both acute and chronic bronchitis. In fact, smoking is the primary cause of chronic bronchitis, and smokers are at an increased risk of suffering from bronchitis-related symptoms.

hand holding a lit cigarette

Exposure to irritants

People frequently exposed to irritants such as dust, chemical fumes, and certain medications may be more likely to develop bronchitis.


Children under 5 are more susceptible to acute bronchitis, while adults over 65 are at a greater risk of developing chronic bronchitis.

older man coughing in his fist

Weakened immune system

Individuals with a weakened immune system due to illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes, or cancer are more likely to develop bronchitis.

Family history

People with a family history of bronchitis are at a greater risk of developing the condition.

sick woman lying in bed

Other medical conditions

Other medical conditions, such as asthma and cystic fibrosis, can increase a person’s risk of developing bronchitis.

Symptoms of Bronchitis

Bronchitis can cause a range of symptoms. Common symptoms include:

  • Cough: A dry or wet cough is often the first sign of bronchitis. This may produce clear, yellow, or greenish mucus. A wet cough is often productive, meaning it brings up phlegm.
  • Chest discomfort: This can feel like tightness or pressure in the chest and is often worse when taking a deep breath or coughing.
  • Shortness of breath: Difficulty breathing is common in cases of severe bronchitis.
  • Wheezing: This is a whistling or squeaky sound that can be heard when breathing.
  • Fatigue: Extreme tiredness and exhaustion are common with bronchitis.
  • Fever: Many people with bronchitis experience low-grade fever and chills.
  • Sore throat: Bronchitis can cause pain and irritation in the throat.
  • Nasal congestion: Congestion in the nasal passages is common in cases of bronchitis.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible to get an accurate diagnosis and receive appropriate treatment.

Diagnosis of Bronchitis

When diagnosing bronchitis, your doctor will evaluate your medical history and perform a physical examination. This may include listening to your lungs for wheezing or crackling noises. The doctor may also order a chest X-ray to see if there are signs of infection in your lungs or to rule out other conditions, such as pneumonia. Other tests used to diagnose bronchitis include pulmonary function, sputum, and blood tests.

Black doctor looking at a tablet while he is wearing his glasses and a stethoscope over his neck.

Pulmonary function tests measure how well your lungs are functioning by measuring the amount of air you can exhale, the speed of your exhalation, and the amount of airway obstruction you have. A sputum test checks for the presence of white blood cells or other signs of infection in mucus that has been coughed up from your lungs. Blood tests can also be used to check for signs of inflammation or infection.

It is important to diagnose bronchitis accurately so that the right treatment can be prescribed. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to reduce the symptoms and prevent complications.

Treatment Options for Bronchitis

Bronchitis can range from mild to severe, and the treatment options vary accordingly. Generally, the best course of action is rest and fluids, but more serious cases may require medical intervention.

  • Rest and fluids: Rest and drinking plenty of fluids are the most important treatments for any case of bronchitis. This helps to reduce inflammation and clear out the airways. It’s also important to avoid smoking and other irritants.
  • Cough medicine: Over-the-counter medications can help to reduce the severity of a cough associated with bronchitis. They can help suppress the cough reflex and make it easier to rest and breathe.
  • Bronchodilators: Bronchodilators are medications that work to relax the airways and help reduce inflammation. This makes it easier to breathe and can help reduce symptoms of wheezing or tightness in the chest.
  • Steroids: In more severe cases, steroids may be prescribed to help reduce inflammation and make breathing easier. Steroids can also be used in combination with other treatments, such as bronchodilators, to maximize their effects.
  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics may be prescribed if the bronchitis is caused by a bacterial infection. This can help to reduce symptoms and clear up the infection quickly.
  • Oxygen therapy: In more serious cases, oxygen therapy may be necessary to ensure proper oxygenation of the blood. This involves using a device to deliver extra oxygen into the lungs, which can help reduce the severity of symptoms and improve the overall quality of life.

Overall, it is important to consult with a doctor to determine the best course of treatment for your bronchitis. With proper medical care and lifestyle modifications, most cases of bronchitis can be managed effectively.

Prevention of Bronchitis

Bronchitis is a common respiratory condition that can be caused by both viruses and bacteria. The best way to prevent bronchitis is to avoid certain risk factors and practice good respiratory hygiene. Here are some tips for preventing bronchitis:

  • Avoid Smoking and Exposure to Irritants: Smoking is a major risk factor for bronchitis, as it damages the airways and increases mucus production. It’s important to quit smoking if you have bronchitis and to avoid secondhand smoke. In addition, be aware of other irritants that can worsen your symptoms, such as chemical fumes, dust, and pollen.
doctor consulting with a patient
  • Wash Hands Regularly: It’s essential to wash your hands regularly, especially after touching other people or surfaces. This is an important way to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria that can cause bronchitis.
  • Get Vaccinated: Certain vaccinations can help protect against the viruses that cause bronchitis, such as the flu, whooping cough, measles, and pneumococcal vaccines. Talk to your doctor to ensure you are current on all necessary vaccinations.
  • Practice Good Respiratory Hygiene: To protect yourself from getting bronchitis, practice good respiratory hygiene by covering your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing. If possible, try to stay away from anyone who is sick to avoid getting infected.

Following these prevention tips can help reduce your risk of getting bronchitis. However, if you experience bronchitis symptoms, it’s important to contact your healthcare provider for a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Complications of Bronchitis

Bronchitis can lead to some serious complications, especially if it is not treated properly or quickly. Here are some of the most common complications associated with bronchitis:

  • Pneumonia: Pneumonia is a lung infection caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. It occurs when fluid and inflammation fill the air sacs in your lungs and make it difficult for you to breathe. Pneumonia can be a complication of acute bronchitis if the inflammation causes your bronchial tubes to become so narrow that air can’t move freely and bacteria from your nose and throat enter your lungs.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): COPD is a group of lung diseases that make it hard to breathe and is caused by long-term exposure to lung irritants such as smoke or fumes. Chronic bronchitis is one of the two types of COPD, along with emphysema. It occurs when the lining of the bronchi becomes inflamed and narrowed, leading to difficulty breathing and other symptoms.
  • Respiratory failure: In some cases, bronchitis can cause respiratory failure, which is when the body cannot take in enough oxygen or get rid of enough carbon dioxide. This is typically due to severe inflammation of the bronchi and can lead to a lack of oxygen in the blood. Respiratory failure is a life-threatening condition and requires immediate medical attention.

It’s important to note that these complications are uncommon, but they can occur if your bronchitis is not treated properly or if it progresses to a more serious condition. If you experience any symptoms or believe you may be at risk for these complications, it’s best to speak with your doctor right away.

Home Remedies for Bronchitis

Bronchitis is a respiratory condition that affects millions of people every year. There are several treatment options available to help manage the symptoms and reduce inflammation, but there are also natural remedies that can be used to alleviate the discomfort associated with bronchitis. Here are some of the most popular home remedies for bronchitis:

herbs and spices on a wooden cutting board
  • Honey and Lemon: Honey and lemon is a well-known home remedy for bronchitis. To use this remedy, mix one teaspoon of honey and the juice of half a lemon in a glass of warm water. Drink this mixture two or three times a day to help soothe the throat and reduce inflammation.
  • Steam Therapy: Steam therapy is an effective way to reduce congestion and ease breathing difficulties associated with bronchitis. Take a hot shower or bath, or boil a pot of water on the stove and breathe in the steam from the pot. This can help thin out mucus, reduce inflammation, and make breathing easier.
  • Saltwater Gargle: A saltwater gargle can help to soothe an irritated throat and loosen up mucus. Mix salt with 8 ounces of warm water and gargle for several minutes. Spit the mixture out after gargling and repeat every few hours as needed.
  • Eucalyptus Oil: Eucalyptus oil can be used to reduce inflammation and help clear out mucus. Put a few drops of eucalyptus oil in hot water and breathe in the steam to get relief from chest congestion and wheezing. It’s also possible to apply a few drops of the oil directly on the chest or back to help open up the airways.
  • Ginger: Ginger is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and can be used to help reduce chest congestion and breathing difficulties associated with bronchitis. To use this remedy, mix freshly grated ginger in a cup of hot water and drink it several times a day for relief. You can also make ginger tea by adding a few slices of fresh ginger to a cup of boiling water and allowing it to steep for several minutes before straining.

These home remedies may offer relief from some of the symptoms associated with bronchitis, but it’s important to remember that they should not replace any treatments prescribed by your doctor. If your symptoms persist or worsen, it’s best to contact your physician for further evaluation.

Lifestyle Changes for Bronchitis

One of the best ways to treat and manage bronchitis is to make lifestyle changes. These changes can help reduce the severity of symptoms, lessen the risk of complications, and speed up your recovery. Here are some tips to consider when making lifestyle changes for bronchitis:

  • Quit Smoking: Smoking is the most common risk factor for bronchitis. If you smoke, it is important to quit as soon as possible. Quitting smoking can reduce your risk of developing bronchitis and decrease your symptoms if you already have it. Talk to your doctor about quitting smoking programs or medications that may be able to help.
  • Avoid Irritants: Exposure to certain irritants can worsen your symptoms and increase your risk of developing bronchitis. Try to avoid smoke, dust, aerosols, fumes, and other environmental irritants. If you work with any of these substances, make sure you wear the proper protective gear.
  • Exercise Regularly: Regular exercise can help improve your overall health and reduce your risk of developing bronchitis. Make sure to start slowly, as too much strenuous activity can worsen your symptoms.
  • Maintain a Healthy Diet: Eating a healthy diet can help support your immune system and keep your lungs strong. Focus on eating lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Avoid foods high in sugar, saturated fat, and processed ingredients.
  • Manage Stress: Stress can worsen your symptoms and weaken your immune system. It is important to take time for yourself and practice relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises.

Making lifestyle changes is important in managing bronchitis and reducing the risk of complications. Talk to your doctor about how you can make these changes in order to support your recovery and get back to feeling better soon.

When to See a Doctor

If you experience symptoms of bronchitis, it is important to seek medical attention. If the symptoms persist or worsen over time, it is important to make an appointment with your doctor. In addition, if you develop a high fever or shortness of breath, you should immediately seek medical attention.

doctor consulting with a patient

Bronchitis can be a serious condition that may require treatment and monitoring by a physician.

It is also important to see a doctor if you experience any other symptoms that may be related to bronchitis. These may include chest pain, wheezing, difficulty breathing, coughing up blood, feeling weak or tired, and changes in skin color. Your doctor can diagnose your condition and recommend the appropriate treatment for your symptoms.


Bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways that can lead to significant coughing and difficulty breathing. There are two main types of bronchitis: acute and chronic. Acute bronchitis is a short-term infection that typically resolves without medical intervention. Chronic bronchitis, however, can last for months or even years and can be managed with medications or lifestyle changes.

It is important to seek medical attention if you are experiencing symptoms of bronchitis, such as persistent coughing, difficulty breathing, chest pain or tightness, or fever. Your healthcare provider will be able to determine the type and cause of your bronchitis and provide treatment options to help you manage your symptoms. Treatments may include antibiotics, over-the-counter medications, or lifestyle modifications. It is important to take all prescribed medications as directed and to follow up with your healthcare provider regularly.

By understanding the types, symptoms, and treatment options for bronchitis, you can work together with your healthcare provider to ensure that you receive the best possible care and have the best possible outcome.

On-Demand Medical House Calls with Concierge MD

Whether you have a busy schedule, can’t get a timely appointment with your physician, or don’t want to sit in a crowded waiting room, you can skip the clinic and get the medical care you need with on-demand house calls for primary and urgent care services.

Make an appointment by clicking the button below!

Experience Care with ConciergeMD

ConciergeMD offers coverage throughout the United States.