What is bronchitis?
Bronchitis is a sickness characterized by a cough due to the irritation and inflammation of the main airways of the lungs which is usually caused by viruses. Mucus is produced by the walls of the airways, this prevents dust and other particles from getting to the lungs by trapping them.
The irritation caused by bronchitis makes the airways produce extra mucus, the body then tries to expel the extra mucus by coughing.
Types of bronchitis
Bronchitis can be acute (last only a short term) or chronic (lasts for at least two months).
Acute bronchitis is commonly caused by viruses such as rhinovirus, enterovirus, influenza A and B, parainfluenza, coronavirus, human metapneumovirus, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Chronic bronchitis is one type of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and the other part of COPD is called emphysema. It is characterized by repeated bronchitis episodes lasting more than three months over two or more consecutive years. Chronic bronchitis is caused by long-term exposure to irritants that damage the airways. The most common irritant is smoke inhalation from tobacco smoking as well as secondhand smoking. Other irritants are chemical fumes, dust, and other occupational irritants. In rare cases, chronic bronchitis can also be caused by a genetic disorder called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.
While acute bronchitis is usually contagious and can be spread through millions of tiny droplets (containing the virus) expelled while coughing or sneezing, chronic bronchitis is not often contagious.
When Can Bronchitis Cause a Fever?
How Long Could a Fever From Bronchitis Last?
Acute bronchitis can be associated with fever because it is usually caused by infection with viruses such as a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), rhinovirus, and influenza A and B. The infection triggers your body's immune response and part of the response is fever. The fever is usually mild and typically lasts three to five days although the bronchitis infection itself can take up to days or weeks to resolve. However, not all patients with acute bronchitis experience fever, and prolonged fever of more than five days or high-grade fever (38°C and above) may be a sign of flu or a more serious disease such as pneumonia.
Chronic bronchitis is caused by inflammation that builds over time usually due to smoking and is not associated with fever.
Apart from fever, you can also feel other symptoms such as
- cough which is a primary symptom of bronchitis and typically lasts for two to three weeks. Cough may also be associated with the production of phlegm/sputum which can be clear or purulent.
- mild body ache.
- feeling tired.
- sore throat.
- shortness of breath.
- chest soreness due to incessant cough
- blocked or runny nose.
How to relieve bronchitis fever fast?
You can relieve bronchitis fever by using medications such as paracetamol, naproxen, ibuprofen, or aspirin. These drugs relieve fever, aches, and headaches that you may feel. However, avoid ibuprofen if you have asthma, and do not use aspirin for children under the age of 16.
You can also take tepid baths, this will help your body cool off.
Read along to see other home care options that can help your fever and relieve other bronchitis symptoms.
Treatment for bronchitis
In most cases, bronchitis clears up on its own and does not need treatment, it typically lasts for a few days or weeks. Usually, you do not need antibiotics. Viruses are the main cause of acute bronchitis and antibiotics do not cure a viral infection. Using antibiotics when you do not need them puts you at risk of side effects and resistance. Although, in some cases, bacteria can also cause bronchitis. But, antibiotics are not advised even in these cases.
However, there is a high risk of bronchitis leading to pneumonia in the presence of some factors. In these cases, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics for you.
These factors include;
- old age.
- history of lung, liver, heart or kidney disease.
- weak immune system.
- cystic fibrosis.
Chronic (long-term) bronchitis is managed the same way as COPD, and particularly smoking cessation is very important if you smoke. Pulmonary rehabilitation which is a breathing exercise and education program can also be of great benefit.
While you recover from bronchitis at home, you can relieve your symptoms by;
- making sure you avoid smoking as well as secondhand smoking
- ensuring you get lots of rest.
- drinking lots of fluids; hydration is important, an additional benefit is that fluids will loosen up the mucus in your lungs making it easier for you to cough up.
- taking NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and paracetamol; provide relief to some bronchitis symptoms such as headaches, body aches, and fever.
- using lozenges.
- using saline nasal spray or drops to relieve a stuffy nose.
- eating a balanced diet.
- Try out natural remedies such as honey and lemon drink, ginger tea, garlic, and menthol (add menthol to a bowl of hot water and inhale the steam)
However, if you experience some severe or unusual symptoms, you should see your doctor for treatment.
Natural remedies are good alternatives to over-the-counter cough medicines and can be beneficial because they help to loosen mucus, soothe sore throats, ease inflammation, and give relief of cough symptoms. Beneficial home remedies include;
- Honey and lemon drink.
- Ginger tea.
- Thyme tea.
However, some home remedies should be avoided as they can be harmful or not beneficial at all. These include;
- cold baths; cold baths cause shivering which might worsen fever.
- alcohol baths or rubs to reduce fever, these can be dangerous.
- antitussives; suppress the cough reflex. coughing helps expel mucus from your airways, suppressing it may make your bronchitis take longer to resolve.
When to seek medical attention
Bronchitis can often be treated easily at home with rest, hydration and some over-the-counter medicines. However, if you experience severe or unusual symptoms, that is an indication that you need to see your doctor
These symptoms include;
- Very high fever or constant fever (38°C and above) that lasts more than five days.
- Severe cough that lasts more than three weeks.
- Recurrent episodes of bronchitis.
- Bloody phlegm (coughing up blood).
- Dizziness or confusion.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Severe chest pain.
- If you experience difficulty breathing and chest pain that is worrisome, seek emergency medical attention immediately.
Your doctor may perform a differential diagnosis to rule out other diseases which have the same symptoms as bronchitis such as pneumonia or whooping cough, you may require a chest X-ray or blood/sputum test if your doctor suspects pneumonia. If your doctor suspects that your symptoms are caused by an undiagnosed underlying health condition, he may order a pulmonary function test to assess your lung performance.
Furthermore, to reduce the risk of developing pneumonia or other complications, you should see a doctor when you suspect you have bronchitis and
- have a weak immune system due to illness, chemotherapy, steroid medication or HIV infection.
- older than 65.
- have health conditions such as COPD, sickle cell diseases, asthma, kidney, heart, or liver diseases.
Bronchitis is self-limiting when it is acute, chronic cases of bronchitis, however, requires management and most importantly smoking cessation for smokers. Bronchitis can take up to weeks to clear up and cough particularly can stick around for a while. However, a fever associated with bronchitis lasts three to five days and a visit to your healthcare provider is necessary when it persists for more days or when you notice other concerning symptoms. There are tips to help you speed up your recovery and make bronchitis symptoms bearable while the infection lasts, the major key is to get lots of rest.
- Singh A, Avula A, Zahn E. Acute Bronchitis. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 [cited 2023 May 31]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK448067/.
- Bronchitis - Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic [Internet]. [cited 2023 May 31]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bronchitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20355566.
- Acute Bronchitis [Internet]. [cited 2023 May 31]. Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/acutebronchitis.html.