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Bronchitis: symptoms & treatments

What you should know

The symptoms of bronchitis are something that may affect you at some point in your life. Read our guide on some of the causes and treatments of bronchitis below.

What is bronchitis?

Bronchitis is an infection of the lungs commonly brought on by the same viruses that cause colds and flu. Inhaling irritants such as smoke, smog, or household products can also trigger it. 

The infection causes the bronchi inside the lungs to inflame, which makes them produce more mucus than usual. 

 

The virus then spreads through tiny airborne droplets released when someone sneezes or coughs. 

There are two types of bronchitis:

  • Acute – More common in the winter months and often develops following a cold or flu. Acute bronchitis is a temporary inflammation of the airways, resulting in a cough and mucus production that can last up to three weeks

  • Chronic – Chronic bronchitis is a daily productive cough that lasts for three months of the year and for at least two years in a row. It usually affects adults over 40. It is one of a number of lung conditions broadly known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

What are the symptoms?

The main symptoms of acute bronchitis are:

  • Hacking cough
  • Excess phlegm in the lungs, which may bring up yellow-grey or greenish mucus
  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Tiredness

When should I visit the GP?

Acute bronchitis should clear by itself, but the use of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen may help ease the symptoms. Ibuprofen is not advised if you have asthma.

You should see your GP if symptoms are severe or unusual. These include: a severe cough, coughing for longer than three weeks, high fever (38°C or higher) for more than three days, presence of blood in your mucus, you develop chest pains or you have an underlying heart or lung condition such as asthma.

What treatments are there?

Acute bronchitis takes a few weeks to clear and can usually be treated at home with plenty of fluid and plenty of rest. There is no cure for chronic bronchitis but lifestyle changes can help ease symptoms.

 

Staying healthy is key to fighting infections such as bronchitis. To help ease symptoms try the following:

  • Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids as this will keep you hydrated
  • Avoid smoking
  • Maintain a healthy diet to give your body plenty of nutritious vitamins and minerals to aid recovery 
  • Get lots of rest and let your body recover
  • Treat cold-like symptoms such as fever or headache with paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • Watch your weight as being overweight puts a strain on your breathing
  • Try moderate exercise and when you’re feeling better try regular exercise. This will help keep your body healthy so it can fight off external aggressors such as bacteria and viruses

If your cough hasn’t cleared after three weeks see your GP for further advice.