Bronchitis - what is it, how do you get it and how do you treat it?

on Mon 8 Nov


It might surprise you to know that bronchitis is the same thing as a chest cold. This type of infection is not uncommon during the winter months as it frequently develops from a cold or flu. Typically, it starts as a dry cough 3 or 4 days after you become infected and then develops into coughing spasms.


Bronchitis is actually an inflammation of your bronchial tubes – the airways which allow air in and out of your lungs. When they become inflamed the inner lining swells and grows thicker thus narrowing the breathing passages. They also produce mucus which can clog the airways.


Spells of coughing are your body’s way of trying to clear these secretions which is why one of the main symptoms of bronchitis is a chesty cough which produces sputum.


Other symptoms of bronchitis

Apart from the cough you may also

  • Feel tired
  • Feel breathless
  • Have discomfort in the chest
  • Have headaches
  • Have a blocked nose and sinuses
  • Have a sore throat
  • Experience wheezing sounds when breathing

In the normal course of things most of these symptoms clear up after about 10 days, but you may have a cough that goes on for some weeks. However, if you are in otherwise good health your lungs will return to normal post infection.


When should you see your doctor?

The symptoms of bronchitis can often be mistaken for asthma, pneumonia, allergies, a cold or flu, sinusitis or even lung cancer, so it’s important to see your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis. This is vital if you are coughing up blood, have a high temperature or have a long-lasting cough.


If that cough goes on for more than 3 weeks with the above symptoms you should see your GP as you might have acute bronchitis


If your cough lasts for more than 3 months and you have similarly recurring episodes of bronchitis over two consecutive years, you’re likely to be diagnosed as having chronic bronchitis. The most common cause of this is cigarette smoking.


Chronic bronchitis is a serious condition which makes your lungs a breeding ground for bacterial infections which is why it requires ongoing medical treatment


Other risk factors and how to mitigate them

Apart from cigarette smoke you have an increased risk of developing bronchitis if you

  • Are exposed to irritants at work
  • Live in an area of high pollution
  • Are exposed to a higher-than-normal level of chemical cleaners
  • Are often in a dusty environment
  • Have gastric reflux
  • Have low resistance due to a compromised immune system


You can reduce your risk of bronchitis by

  • Wearing a face mask
  • Washing your hands against viral infection
  • Getting a yearly flu jab and considering getting one against pneumonia
  • Not smoking


Diagnosis and Treatment

Your GP will ask about your symptoms and your medical history and then listen to any abnormal chest sounds with a stethoscope.


Further pulmonary function tests or chest X rays may also be done


Acute bronchitis can be treated with rest, fluids and an over-the-counter pain reliever for any aches and pains. You may also be given an expectorant to loosen your mucus or an inhaler to open up your airways


Chronic bronchitis caused by smoking means you must give up smoking first and foremost. You will probably be advised to have a flu and/or pneumonia job and may be treated with steroids


I hope this has been helpful.


We make every effort to ensure that all health advice on this website is accurate and up to date. However it is for information purposes and should not replace a visit to your doctor or health care professional. As the advice is general in nature rather than specific to individuals we cannot accept any liability for actions arising from its use nor can we be held responsible for the content of any pages referenced by an external link.


About Stephanie Acne Age-related Macular Degeneration AIDS alcohol units and effects allergies Andropause angina anorexia Anti Ageing Anxiety arrhythmia arthritis asthma atrial fibrillation back pain basic metabolic rate BHRT bio-identical hormones Biog Bloating blood pressure BMR bone density Book review bowel cancer brain fog brain tumour Bronchitis bulimia Bursitis calcium Cancer cancer signs and symptoms carpal tunnel syndromw cervical cancer Cervical smear Charles Bonnet Syndrome check your pulse cholesterol chronic fatigue syndrome coeliac disease cold virus contraception COPD coronary thrombosis coronavirus covid-19 Deep vein thrombosis dehydration signs Delaying menopause Dementia Depression dermatitis Diabetes Digestive problems digital health Donor advice DVT dyspareunia Ear infections Early menopause eating disorders eczema endometriosis exercise fertility fibroids fitness flu gallstones Gardisil Genetic testing government health policy hair loss hayfever Health Awareness Day Health Awareness Month Health Awareness week health warning healthy eating heart attack heart attacks Heart Disease Helpful supplements Hepatitis High blood pressure HIV Hives Hormone Replacement Therapy hormones hot flushes HPV HRT HRT & breast cancer HRT in the news HRT risks hydration benefits Hypertension IBS immune system itching Itchy Skin joint pain kidney function Laryngitis Leukaemia libido lichen sclerosus lifestyle liver Liver Disease Long Covid Symptoms lowered immmunity Lung cancer Lupus LUTS Macular Degeneration Magnesium# Male Menopause Managing Anxiety Managing Stress ME/CFS Men's health Meningitis Menoapuse advice for partners menopause menopause and dental health Menopause Specialist menopause symptoms Menopause Weight Gain menpause Menstrual Cycle Menstruation Menstruation and Athletes mental health Mental health support metabolism microbiome Migraine Migraines Motivation technique mouth cancer night sweats Norovirus oestrogen osteoarthritis Osteoporosis Paget's disease painful sex palpitations Pancreatic Cancer Parkinson's Parkinsons pelvic pain Perimenopause perimenopause and breast pain Pneumonia POI post menopause vocal syndrome Premature Ovarian Insufficiency Probiotics Prolapse prostate prostate cancer Pruritis Psoriasis Psychosexual medicine reflux rheumatoid arthritis Rosacea sarcoma self harming sex sex and disability sexual health Shingles Sinusitis skin cancer Skin health sleep Statins Staying positive STI's Strep A Strep throat stroke Takayasu Arteritis talks and presentations TB testosterone Tinnitus trying to lose weight tuberculosis Type 2 Diabetes underactive thyroid Urinary Infections Urinary Tract Infection Using a private GP UTI's vaginal dryness Vascular awareness month vegan diets Vitamin D Vulval itching Winter Vomiting Bug women's health World Health Day

Email enquiry form

How To Find Us

25 Harley Street, London W1G 9QW

Newsletter Signup

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.


We use MailChimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to MailChimp for processing. Learn more about MailChimp's privacy practices here.