What is Bronchitis

Bronchitis is when the lining of the bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from the lungs, become inflamed. Often accompanied by coughing, and thick mucus, bronchitis is more severe than the cold, but less severe than pneumonia.

Bronchitis can be acute or chronic.

Acute Bronchitis

The most common type of bronchitis, acute bronchitis is usually caused by viral infections; typically, the same viruses that cause the common cold or flu. Often called a chest cold, acute bronchitis usually less than 10 days, but can sometimes take a couple weeks to fully heal.

Chronic Bronchitis

The more serious of the two, chronic bronchitis returns regularly, or doesn’t go away. The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is cigarette smoking.

Is bronchitis contagious

Since acute bronchitis is caused by a viral infection, it is contagious. It can infect people the same way as the cold or flu does, and is spread through mucus droplets that can be discharged when an infected person talks, sneezes, or coughs.

Chronic bronchitis is a long-term inflammation of the air tubes, and is usually not contagious to other people.


Symptoms for bronchitis can sometime be similar to other lung conditions or infections, and can depend on the type on bronchitis it is.

Common symptoms of acute bronchitis include:

  • Phlegm (clear, yellow, white, or green in color)
  • No fever (though a low fever can appear in some people)
  • Feeling tired all the time (also called “bronchitis fatigue”)
  • Muscle aches
  • Chest discomfort
  • Chest is tender or sore when you cough
  • Whistling or wheezing sound when breathing
  • Mild shortness of breath
  • Chills

If symptoms last for 3 months or longer, you may have chronic bronchitis.

Common symptoms of chronic bronchitis:

  • Wheezing
  • Chest discomfort
  • Stubborn cough that won’t go away, often accompanied by mucus
  • Feeling tired
  • Shortness of breath
  • Symptoms that return for at least 3 months a year, for 2 years in a row (or longer)


The cause depends on the type on bronchitis it is.

Acute bronchitis – the main cause in viral infection, much like the common cold or flu.

Chronic bronchitis – this recurring and persistent inflammation of the airways is usually caused by smoking.


Only a doctor can diagnose bronchitis. Usually, bronchitis will go away on its own in about 10-14 days. If symptoms persist, or you something to help relieve symptoms, speak to a doctor.

Diagnosis will usually involve listening to your breathing, coughing, and asking you questions about the symptoms. More severe cases may involve various scans or x-rays.


In cases of acute bronchitis, antibiotics (which treat bacterial infections) will not work on this viral infection. For symptom relief, the doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to ease symptoms, until the virus leaves the system.

Treating chronic bronchitis is trickier. Since, there’s no cure, treatment for chronic bronchitis become about managing and reducing the symptoms of the condition. It may involve lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, or incorporating different medicines or medical devices into your life, such as inhaled medications or portable oxygen containers.

When to See a Medical Doctor

Only a doctor can properly diagnose and treat bronchitis. If you have symptoms of acute bronchitis, a doctor can prescribe medications to relieve symptoms until the virus leaves the body.

If symptoms persist for long periods of time (3 months or more), occur routinely or frequently (a couple times a year for 2 years or more), speak to a doctor as it may be a sign of chronic bronchitis, or another condition. In this case, the sooner you speak to a doctor, the better.