Symptoms, signs, and complications of bronchitis


Bronchitis is irritation and inflammation of the airways that push air into and out of the lungs. Acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis have similar symptoms, including dry or productive cough and shortness of breath, but these are different diseases that last for different times.

Acute bronchitis – it is a relatively short-term disease that usually results from a viral infection and does not require antibiotic treatment. If you are diagnosed with acute bronchitis, you can expect to recover in a few days or weeks. In contrast, chronic bronchitis is a serious lifelong disease. 

If you have chronic bronchitis, you may also have emphysema that affects the lungs instead of the bronchi. Although emphysema and chronic bronchitis can occur simultaneously, there are differences between emphysema and bronchitis.

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Common Symptoms

Acute and chronic bronchitis have many common symptoms because both are caused by inflammation of the bronchi.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Dry cough 
  • Productive cough in which thick and/or discolored mucus is released. This mucus mixed with saliva is often called phlegm. 
  • Nasal sinus congestion
  • Chest congestion
  • Dyspnoea
  • Wheezing
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches or chills
  • Chest discomfort from coughing

Here is a brief description of the symptoms that distinguish acute bronchitis from chronic bronchitis.

Acute bronchitis
Chronic bronchitis

  • Long-term, lasting at least three months for two consecutive years

  • Chest tightness or pain

  • Persistent fatigue

  • Swelling of ankles, feet, and (sometimes) legs

Acute bronchitis

The typical progression of acute bronchitis symptoms begins with runny nose, sore throat, productive cough, and low fever. After three or four days, a dry, spasmodic cough may develop.

In acute bronchitis, symptoms can often be more severe than in chronic bronchitis.

Most cases of acute bronchitis last three to 10 days. However, the cough may persist for several weeks, even after the infection that caused it has been cleared. 

Acute bronchitis usually goes away on its own, but it may need to be treated if it is caused by a bacterial infection. 

In addition to the general effects of bronchitis, symptoms of acute bronchitis include:

  • Low fever
  • Sneezing, runny nose
  • Sore throat

Chronic bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis is characterized by productive cough, which lasts at least three months for two consecutive years. Chronic bronchitis is not a disease that can be cured, but symptoms can be treated with medication.

In addition to the general effects of bronchitis, symptoms of chronic bronchitis include:

  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Constant fatigue or fatigue
  • Swelling of the ankles or feet; swelling of the legs (associated with cardiac complications of bronchitis)

Symptoms in children

Children can develop acute bronchitis with infection and the child rarely develops chronic bronchitis. In addition to the usual symptoms of acute bronchitis, children are more likely to vomit with acute bronchitis, because they can swallow phlegm. Vomiting may occur suddenly and without warning, along with coughing up.

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Less Common Symptoms

Bronchitis is usually recognized by productive cough. There are several other less common symptoms of bronchitis, including: 

  • Bad breath: Unpleasant smell ISO the mouth can develop rapidly in people with acute bronchitis. Chronic bad breath can also be a sign of chronic bronchitis. This can occur when nasal congestion causes you to breathe through your mouth, which promotes the growth of bacteria on your tongue and mucous membranes. These bacteria can produce an unpleasant odor. Antibiotics are generally not recommended to reduce the amount of bacteria that cause bad breath. 
  • Coughing up blood: Persistent cough in acute and chronic bronchitis can cause traumatic tears with bleeding in the bronchi or throat. This can cause you to cough up phlegm with a touch of blood. 
  • Lack of physical endurance: When you have acute or chronic bronchitis, you may experience difficulty breathing very easily when you exercise, which sometimes limits your ability to exercise or walk long distances. If you have acute bronchitis, it will improve a few days after the disease goes away. If you have chronic bronchitis, you may need physical therapy to increase your resistance. 
  • Trouble sleeping: Persistent coughing and nasal congestion in bronchitis can disrupt your sleep, making it difficult for you to rest, no matter what time of day or night you try to fall asleep. 


There are several serious complications of bronchitis, but they are not common. Complications can occur in chronic or acute bronchitis, but they are much more likely to occur as a result of chronic bronchitis due to prolonged exposure to the disease. 

  • Infection: You may become more susceptible to another respiratory tract infection if you have bronchitis. If you get another infection during acute bronchitis, it may delay your recovery. If you develop a respiratory infection when you have chronic bronchitis, it can cause an attack of acute bronchitis in addition to your chronic illness. An episode of acute bronchitis is likely to be more severe and last longer in chronic bronchitis.
  • Pneumonia: If you have bronchitis of any kind, your lungs are more likely to become infected, leading to pneumonia. Pneumonia is a long-term infection that makes you feel worse than with acute bronchitis. 
  • Aspiration pneumonia: Coughing in bronchitis can cause you to choke on food if you cough while eating. This can cause the food you eat to fall into the wrong tube, into your lungs and not your stomach. Aspiration pneumonia can be a persistent infection that is harmful to your health and takes months to recover from it. 
  • Heart disease: Prolonged breathing difficulties for chronic bronchitis can put extra pressure on your heart, causing heart disease or aggravating heart failure. 

When to see a doctor

If you have symptoms that seem more severe than those of a common cold, or if you have trouble breathing, you should call your health care provider.

Other warning signs to look for:

  • Delayed recovery: If you have symptoms of acute bronchitis but don’t start feeling better quickly enough, see your health care provider because you may have a severe respiratory disorder.
  • Recurrent symptoms after recovery: If your cough lasts longer than four to six weeks after diagnosis, see your health care provider. if your symptoms improve and then worsen or differ from the above, you may have developed another infection and need to see a doctor. 
  • Dyspnoea: If you find that you cannot catch your breath with minimal physical exertion or at rest, you should consult a doctor. 
  • Vomiting blood or spitting blood: If you have blood or blood clots in your phlegm, or if you vomit blood, it may be a symptom of a more serious illness than bronchitis.
  • Swelling: If you have swelling or swelling of the hands and feet, it may be a symptom of a serious respiratory or heart problem and you should consult a doctor.

Frequently asked questions

  • Symptoms of acute bronchitis without cough (nasal congestion, fever.headache, fatigue) usually last only a few days. However, your cough can last up to two to three weeks-on average, it’s 18 days.

    Chronic bronchitis is a lifelong condition in which you will have periodic episodes of symptoms that last at least three months at a time.

  • Both conditions affect the airways and share common symptoms including headache, fatigue, muscle aches, productive or unproductive cough and rales. Pneumonia it can cause low or no fever and shortness of breath in adults; children may have a high fever.

  • At night (or any time you lie down) you can feel most congested and full because mucus can build up in the upper respiratory tract. Your cough may get worse at night because your airways tend to be more sensitive and prone to irritation when your airway muscles are relaxed.

  • Gradual buildup of mucus in the mucosa bronchi (respiratory tract) is responsible for the characteristic cough in bronchitis. The cough is more likely to be dry at first, but as mucus builds up, the cough becomes productive, causing excess mucus. Wheezing is the sound that causes air to pass through the narrowed airways.

  • Many diseases cause persistent cough, including:

    Similarities between these conditions and bronchitis can sometimes make diagnosis difficult. However, there are usually other symptoms besides cough that help distinguish them from bronchitis.

  • Chronic bronchitis is not contagious, but a viral or bacterial infection of the respiratory tract that leads to acute bronchitis can certainly be transmitted from one person to another. If you are near a person who has a cough and other symptoms of bronchitis, stay as far away as possible and Wash your hands after spending time with him.

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