Bronchitis is defined as an inflammation of the lining of the tubes that carry air to and from your lungs. It is often characterized by coughing spasms that sometimes cause breathlessness.
If you find yourself with the following symptoms, you might have bronchitis:
- Lingering cough
- Coughing up discolored mucus
- Shortness of breath
- Slight fever and chills
- Chest discomfort
Bronchitis is most common in the winter as a side effect of another virus, cold or flu. Learn more about the different types of bronchitis, when to see a doctor and what you can do to find some relief from the coughing.
What is acute bronchitis
People commonly think of acute bronchitis as a chest cold. You may have acute bronchitis if you have coughing spasms, are coughing up mucus, experience shortness of breath combined with common virus symptoms: aches, chills and overall fatigue. Acute bronchitis almost always starts as another illness that spreads from your nose and/or throat down to your airways. Acute bronchitis is usually not a serious illness and in healthy people it will go away on its own much like any virus. However, even in healthy people you might experience coughing that lasts up to a month after the initial symptoms have faded.
What is chronic bronchitis
While acute bronchitis usually improves noticeably within a week, repeated bouts of bronchitis or coughing spasms that do not decrease in intensity may signal chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis requires medical attention and often medicines to provide relief.
It is important to see a doctor if you are experiencing coughing spasms that do not let up after 3-5 days, have a history of bronchitis or are a smoker. Your doctor will run tests to make sure you do not have additional issues such as pneumonia or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
1. Stay hydrated. You need to drink enough liquids so that you are able to cough and sneeze to clear your air passages. Drink plenty of fluids and avoid alcohol which can cause you to lose fluid and make your mucus thicker and harder to cough up. Plenty of water also helps keep your air passages moist and better able to fight germs and irritants.
2. Avoid smoke, dust, and strong smells.
3. Get plenty of rest. As your coughing subsides, carefully add activity back to your life. Rest when you feel it is needed.
4. Eat a healthy diet. Ask your caregiver if you should decrease your intake of dairy products (which can increase the production of mucus) while you are coughing.
5. Use a cool mist humidifier or a vaporizer to increase air moisture in your home. This can be especially helpful in your bedroom at night. Moist air may make it easier for you to breathe and help decrease your cough.
When to call the doctor
- You've had a cough accompanied by discolored or bloody mucus that lasts more than three weeks
- Coughing is preventing you from sleeping
- You are continually running a fever higher than 100.4 F (38 C)
- You are experiencing wheezing or shortness of breath
Get help for your breathing problems
When you can't comfortably breathe, you can't live the life you're used to. Don't let bronchitis or other breathing illnesses drag you down. Find a doctor that can help treat bronchitis and other breathing problems.