What is bronchitis?
Bronchitis is an infection of the main airways of the lungs, called the bronchi. The infection makes the bronchi irritated and inflamed, causing you to produce and cough up more mucus than normal.
There are 2 types of bronchitis:
- acute bronchitis - lasts for less than 3 weeks
- chronic bronchitis - you cough up mucus for at least 3 months of the year and for at least 2 years in a row
What are the signs of bronchitis?
The main symptom of acute bronchitis is a hacking cough that often brings up clear, yellow-grey or greenish mucus.
If you have bronchitis, you may also have other symptoms, including:
- a sore throat
- a headache
- a runny or blocked nose
- aches and pains
What are the best antibiotics for bronchitis?
Antibiotics are not routinely prescribed for bronchitis because the condition is usually caused by a virus.
However, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if you have bronchitis and you:
- have an increased risk of complications, such as
- are older than 80
- have a history of
- have a weakened immune system, which could be the result of an underlying condition or a side effect of a treatment like steroids
If your doctor prescribes antibiotics for bronchitis, they'll most likely give you a 5-day course of amoxicillin or doxycycline.
Is bronchitis contagious?
Bronchitis is usually caused by a virus that's spread through direct contact or coughing and sneezing. You can help to prevent spreading the infection by washing your hands often and using disposable tissues.
How do you get bronchitis?
Bronchitis is most commonly caused by a virus, such as the
Sometimes, bronchitis can be caused by certain bacteria.
Other causes of bronchitis include breathing in irritant substances, such as smog, chemicals (at home or work) or tobacco smoke (including inhaling second-hand smoke).
How long is bronchitis contagious?
Chronic bronchitis is not contagious but acute bronchitis is, as it's usually caused by
The exact amount of time bronchitis remains contagious is hard to know because it depends on the type of virus you have. However, you should assume that you can spread the infection to others if you still have symptoms.
How do you treat bronchitis?
Acute bronchitis usually gets better within a few weeks and without treatment.
You can help your recovery by:
- getting plenty of rest
- drinking lots of fluid – this helps prevent
There's little evidence that cough medicines are effective at treating bronchitis.
Chronic bronchitis is a type of long-term lung condition where, unlike acute bronchitis, your symptoms don't go away completely.
Chronic bronchitis can't be cured, but you can help to improve your symptoms in various ways, including:
- taking medicines - such as bronchodilators and steroids to open up the airways and mucolytic medicines to make it easier to cough up mucus. Your doctor can prescribe these medicines if needed
What’s the difference between bronchitis and pneumonia?
Pneumonia is the most common complication of bronchitis.
Can you die from bronchitis?
Bronchitis is not usually life-threatening. Most cases resolve within 3 weeks. However, bronchitis can lead to complications, such as
See your doctor as soon as possible or go to hospital if:
- your cough is severe
- your cough lasts longer than 3 weeks
- you have a high temperature for more than 3 days
- you cough up mucus streaked with blood
- you have an underlying heart or lung condition, such as
- you're becoming more breathless
- you have had repeated episodes of bronchitis
How long does bronchitis last?
Acute bronchitis usually lasts up to 3 weeks. Sometimes, bronchitis can last longer. The condition is called chronic bronchitis if you have a daily productive cough that lasts for at least 3 months of the year and for at least 2 years in a row.