How Do You Know If You Have Bronchitis?

What is bronchitis?

Bronchitis is an infection that occurs in the lungs that causes them to be inflamed and irritated. Branches on either side of the trachea (bronchi) lead to smaller airways called bronchioles. The bronchi produce mucus that traps dust and other particles that could cause irritation. Our body then tries to move the mucus through coughing. Bronchitis occurs due to an infection that irritates or inflames the airways, leading to a production of extra mucus, which your body tries to remove through coughing. Bronchitis can be described as being either acute or chronic.1 

Symptoms Of Bronchitis

A common symptom of bronchitis is a hacking cough along with greenish and yellowish-grey phlegm. Other symptoms of bronchitis are similar to sinusitis and other common colds, such as:

  • Headaches.
  • Feeling exhausted.
  • Blocked or runny nose.
  • Aches and pain.
  • Sore throat.1

If you have acute bronchitis, your cough may last for a few weeks long, after other symptoms have gone. You may also feel soreness in the chest and stomach muscles from the continued coughing. Occasionally some people experience wheezing or shortness of breath, but this is more common with chronic bronchitis, which can last for years.1 

Types of bronchitis

Acute bronchitis is caused by acute inflammation of the bronchi caused by various triggers such as pollutants, allergens, and viral infections. It is mostly caused by bacterial or viral infections. Viral infections make up most of acute bronchitis, with only 1-10% of cases being caused by bacterial infections. The most common viruses for acute bronchitis are enterovirus, rhinovirus, influenza A and B, parainfluenza, coronavirus, respiratory syncytial virus, and human metapneumovirus. Like most viral diseases of the respiratory tract, acute bronchitis is common during the flu season during autumn and winter.2

Chronic bronchitis is defined by a continuous cough and overproduction and secretion of phlegm that lasts for longer than 3 months a year for 2 consecutive years. These frequent coughing spells can cause damage to the lungs and lead to difficulty in breathing.3 

Causes of bronchitis

There are a number of factors that are thought to contribute to the development of bronchitis, but one of the most significant is exposure to cigarette smoke, either via the act of smoking cigarettes or by the inhalation of secondhand smoke. Bronchitis can be caused by the inhalation of a wide variety of irritants to the respiratory system, such as pollution, allergens, dust, industrial pollutants, and toxic chemicals. Although bacterial and viral illnesses are the most common causes of acute bronchitis, chronic bronchitis can be caused by repeated exposure to infections.4

Risk factors 

Risk factors for chronic bronchitis include:

  • Irritants: Exposure to lung irritants such as air pollution, smoke, dust, and chemical fumes from the atmosphere. 
  • Smoking: Smoking is the main risk factor for bronchitis. 
  • Age: Most cases of chronic bronchitis occur in people over the age of 40.
  • Genetics: This includes the genetic condition alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. Also, smokers who have a family history of COPD are more likely to get chronic bronchitis.4

How do you know if you have bronchitis

You may have bronchitis if your immune system makes your airways enlarge and mucus fills them when they are inflamed. To get rid of the mucus, you cough. You will continue to cough as long as there is mucus or inflammation in your airways.1


The most common complication of bronchitis is pneumonia. 

It occurs when the infection progresses further into the lungs, causing the tiny air sacs within the lungs to fill with fluid. About 1 in 20 cases of bronchitis progresses to pneumonia.1

People who are more likely to get pneumonia are:

  • Smokers
  • People with a weakened immune system
  • Elderly people
  • People with health conditions such as kidney, heart, or liver disease.1

Treating bronchitis

The main goal of treating bronchitis is to relieve symptoms, prevent complications, and slow the disease's progression. The main goals of therapy are to stop the overproduction of mucus, control inflammation, and stop coughing. Both pharmacological and nonpharmacological interventions are used to achieve these goals. The following are the main types of pharmacological interventions:

  • Bronchodilators: Short-acting and long-acting β-adrenergic receptor agonists, in addition to anticholinergics, are helpful in this condition because they increase the lumen of the airway, increase ciliary function, and by increasing mucous hydration. 
  • Glucocorticoids: Reduce mucus production and inflammation swelling. Inhaled corticosteroids reduce flare-ups and improve quality of life. But it is only given by doctors and for short periods of time because long-term use can cause osteoporosis, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
  • Phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors reduce inflammation and help smooth muscles in the airways relax by stopping the hydrolysis of cyclic adenosine monophosphate, a substance that, when broken down, causes inflammatory mediators to be released.
  • Antibiotics. Antibiotic therapy is not recommended for treating chronic bronchitis. However, macrolide therapy has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, so it may be useful in treating chronic bronchitis.4

Home remedies

Non Pharmacological treatment for bronchitis includes:

  • Making sure you get enough rest. 
  • Drinking a lot of fluids. This will keep you from getting dehydrated and will thin the mucus in your lungs, making it easier for you to cough it up. 
  • Taking paracetamol or ibuprofen for headaches, fever, aches, and pains. If you have asthma, however, you shouldn't take ibuprofen. 
  • Drinking a mixture of hot water with honey or lemon. This can soothe your throat and ease your cough.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Regular exercise.
  • Eating a balanced diet.
  • Keeping a humidifier.
  • Sucking on lozenges.
  • If you have a fever or don't feel well, try to stay at home and limit your contact with others.2


Bronchitis is a common condition that, in most cases, clears up on its own within a few days. It's possible that you have bronchitis if you have a cough and your phlegm is yellow or green. If your cough continues for longer than 3 months of the year, you may have chronic bronchitis. There is no way to completely avoid getting bronchitis because it has many different causes. However, by changing your lifestyle, you can lower your risk.


  1. Bronchitis [Internet]. NHS.UK. 2017 [cited 2022 Oct 13]. Available from: 
  2. Singh A, Avula A, Zahn E. Acute bronchitis. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 [cited 2022 Nov 11]. Available from: 
  3. Kim V, Criner GJ. Chronic Bronchitis and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine [Internet]. 2013 Feb [cited 2022 Oct 13];187(3):228–37. Available from: 
  4. Widysanto A, Mathew G. Chronic bronchitis. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 [cited 2022 Nov 11]. Available from: 

This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

Get our health newsletter

Get daily health and wellness advice from our medical team.
Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to this website may be placed by us on our servers. If you do not agree do not provide the information.

Hana Hailu

Master's degree, Brain Science, University of Glasgow

Hana Hailu is an accomplished academic with a strong foundation in the field of brain science and pharmacology. She is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Brain Science from the prestigious University of Glasgow (2021-2022). Prior to this, Hana earned her Bachelor of Applied Science (BASc) in Applied Pharmacology from Queen Margaret University, where she studied from September 2017 to September 2021. With her deep knowledge and dedication, Hana is poised to make significant contributions to the world of neuroscience and pharmacology.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
Klarity / Managed Self Ltd
Alum House
5 Alum Chine Road
Westbourne Bournemouth BH4 8DT
VAT Number: 362 5758 74
Company Number: 10696687

Phone Number:

 +44 20 3239 9818