Bronchitis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment


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What is bronchitis?

The inflammation of your bronchial tubes (bronchi), which are the air passages between the mouth, nose, and the lungs, is a condition known as bronchitis. This illness can be caused by viruses, bacteria, as well as allergens such as tobacco smoke, dust, fumes, vapours, and air pollution.
The most common cause of bronchitis is however viral infection. The symptoms of viral bronchitis are wheezing, burning pain, difficulty in breathing, and headache. Viral bronchitis can disappear on its own without medications, with simple home remedies.

How does bronchitis occur?

The same viruses that give you cold or flu cause bronchitis. Though, bacteria too can cause bronchitis.

The flu virus spreads through contact with an infected person, and through coughing and sneezing. When people who are infected, cough or sneeze, droplets are released into the air. People nearby inhale these droplets and get exposed to the virus.

Infection also spreads when unsuspecting people touch any surface, contaminated with the droplets of cough and sneezing of an infected person, and then touch their mouth or nose.

Almost all respiratory viruses spread this way.

When the germs enter your body, your immune system fights the germs, and during this phase, the bronchial passages may swell up and gear into action to create more mucus. This results in smaller openings for the air to flow through making it difficult to breathe for you. This is when bronchitis occurs.
People with bronchitis suffer from reduced ability to fully breathe in oxygen into their lungs due to the heavy mucus or phlegm congesting their airways.

There are two types of bronchitis:

  • Acute Bronchitis: lasts for a shorter duration and commonly occurs after a cold or viral infection, such as the flu. It causes cough with mucus, fever, headache, and chest discomfort. It can last from three to four days to upto three to four weeks. Acute bronchitis is contagious.
  • Chronic Bronchitis: is a persistent form of bronchitis that can last for upto three months or even upto two years. It is caused by repeated irritation and damage of the lung and airway tissue and is caused by air pollution, dust and fumes.

Who is prone to bronchitis?

Those who are prone to bronchitis include:

  • People with a weak immune system, such as older adults and people with ongoing diseases, as well as for babies and young children.
  • People who are chronic smokers or who live with chronic smokers.
  • People who work with substances that can affect lungs such as, chemical fumes, dust, etc.
  • Travellers who are travelling to places which have high levels of pollution.

What are the causes of bronchitis?

The causes of acute bronchitis include:

  • viruses, that cause colds and flu.
  • exposure to substances that irritate the lungs, such as tobacco smoke, dust, fumes, vapours, and air pollution.
  • bacterial infection 

The causes of chronic bronchitis include:

  • chronic smoking
  • long-term exposure to air pollution, dust and fumes
  • repeated irritation and damage to the lung and airway tissue caused by smoking or pollution.

What are the symptoms of bronchitis? How is bronchitis diagnosed?

The symptoms of bronchitis include:

  • a persistent cough with mucus
  • body aches
  • breathlessness
  • headache
  • wheezing
  • fever
  • chest tightening and discomfort
  • a sore throat
  • blocked nose and sinuses


A general practitioner can easily diagnose the symptoms of bronchitis. He will ask about the symptoms and in particular the cough and also about your medical history, and if you have recently suffered from a cold or flu. He will also ask if you have other health conditions and if you smoke, or if you have recently been exposed to substances such as dust, fumes, vapours, or air pollution.

He will perform a quick medical exam with a stethoscope to listen for any abnormal sounds in the lungs.

Based on the severity of your condition the doctor may recommend:

  • X-ray of the chest:  to determine if you are suffering from pneumonia
  • Sputum test: if you have any other illnesses such as whooping cough
  • Pulmonary function test: to check the condition of your lungs and also see if you have any other medical condition such as asthma.

What are the complications of bronchitis?

Some complications of bronchitis include:

  • dyspnea
  • pneumothorax
  • polycythemia
  • emphysema
  • respiratory failure
  • pneumonia
  • cor pulmonale (alteration in the structure of the right ventricle in the heart)
  • chronic advancement of the disease

What is the treatment for bronchitis?

If the bronchitis is due to bacteria the doctor will prescribe antibiotics. For viral bronchitis, he may prescribe a cough suppressant and pain reliever. You will also be asked to take plenty of fluids and be on bed rest.

In cases of acute bronchitis, you may need inhalers and other forms of treatment. Make sure that you tell the doctor all your pre-existing medical conditions (that is if you have any) so that the doctor can prescribe medicines which do not clash with each other.

Would you like to consult a doctor for Bronchitis ?

Patient Experiences

Relief From Bronchitis
This is the fourth time I am visiting Dr KK Reddy for my daughters bronchitis problem in the past two years. Since he is a very busy doctor, the staffs at the clinic guided us to another doctor in another floor of the same building for preliminary checkup. The young doctor did the checkup and suggested for x-rays and blood test. It takes nearly 1 hour to get the test results and after getting the result you need to wait for more than 1 hour to meet Dr KK Reddy. The doctor is very good in analyzing case and giving detailed explanation for each diagnosis and also in suggesting medicine. My kid had continuous coughing for 5 days even after giving syrups suggested by the child specialist. But, after taking the medicines suggested by Dr KK Reddy, my kid got major relief and was able to get sound sleep after many days/nights. I would recommend this doctor for anyone who is in need. ...Read Less
Doctor in this story :Dr. K K Reddy Sadu
K.K.Reddy Chest Clinic
Asha sharma
Successful Treatment for Allergic Bronchitis
First thing for Dr.Singh,he is excellent and really the best Doctor I have seen.My child was suffering from allergic bronchitis and I was really fed-up of her problem as I had to visit paediatrician after every few days.she was always told for nebulization and was given antibiotics. But no relief in her complaints.But some one suggested me for Dr.Singh's Advanced homoeopathy. I was very hesitant to visit a homoeopathic doctor as I had heard that it acts very slow,and whether it acts also.But to my surprise she was better in first two days and now it almost 6 months since she was given any nebulization or she felt ill.I am very thankful to Dr.Singh.Now my whole family and relatives visit him.And everyone is very happy by the results they got for their various problems,that to quick result.Advanced homoeopathy is Best. ***** ...Read Less
Doctor in this story :Dr. Rupesh Singh
Dr. Singh's Advanced Homeopathy Clinic for Cancer, Diabetes and Kidney

Questions answered by trusted doctors

Verified User
My daughter suffering from bronchitis from last 6 months. How to cure from that? Also please recommend diet for her!
Dr. Mahavir M Modi
Pulmonologist, Pune
it depends on the age of the daughter. Bronchitis is just a better word for Asthma. need to see a pulmonologist and find out the suitable treatment.
Dr. Naaz Kazi
Homoeopath, Thane
It appears that your daughter is suffering from allergic reaction and the site of affection is her bronchioles.
Try to locate the allergen and avoiding exposure can help temporarily.
For permanent cure of this condition you can opt homoeopathy.
You can give her a diet which supplies proteins, vitamins and minerals which will help good functioning of the immune system.
Eg: green leafy vegetables, nuts, eggs, soyabeans and milk.
Verified User
I have Bronchitis and Hyperthyroidism, my GP prescribed Azithomycin 250 mg and folcofen for my Bronchitis and NeoMarcozole 5 mg and Atenolol 50 mg for my hyperthyrodism. I have had Graves disease, for three months and have recently been diagnosed, 2 weeks, with Bronchitis. Will this medicine work? How long does it take for my symptoms to clear?
Dr. Sandeep Jassal
Preventive Medicine, Chandigarh
Bronchitis is a temporary inflammation of the airways & is tremendously benefitted by steam inhalation & high vitamin C & Zinc.
Ask health queries and get free answers from doctors in 24 hrs

Did you know?

Unrecognized epidemic in India

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) the umbrella term for a variety of clinical disorders with chronic bronchitis at the one end and emphysema at the other end of the spectrum, is an unrecognized epidemic in India.

Bronchitis on the rise in India

Cases of bronchitis are on the rise in india thanks to the pollution, especially in the big cities.

2 Million People Have Latent TB

On an average 50 to 80 patients walk in daily into the hospitals in the big cities with acute respiratory problems including bronchitis.

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Home Remedies

Complete Bedrest

You need adequate sleep to enable the body to repair itself. People who are sleep deprived are more vulnerable to cold and viruses than those who get proper rest

Plenty of Fluids

Stay adequately hydrated if you are battling bronchitis as that will thin out the mucus. Take atleast 10 - 12 glasses of warm water per day. Have hot soups as well.

Lemon Juice

Squeeze a lemon in a glass of warm water. Add some honey into it and drink. This will sooth your irritated passageways.

Inhale Steam

Take some boiling water in a wide vessel. Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil into it. Lean onto the vessel and cover your head with a towel along with the vessel, and breathe in the warm moisture. Repeat this several times a day. This will open up your clogged arteries.

Gargle with Salt Water

Add some salt into a glass of hot water. Gargle with this water. It will help wash away the mucus and clear your throat.