How Long Does Bronchitis Last
Have chest pain, a persistent cough, and are wondering if it's bronchitis? Find out how long bronchitis lasts and what you can do to get relief from this common health condition.
Jul 31, 2023 By Madison Evans

Do you feel like your chest is heavy and have a persistent dry or wet cough? You might be wondering if this is bronchitis. Bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways in your lungs, which can cause coughing and shortness of breath for weeks.

So how long does bronchitis last? In this blog post, we'll explore the different types of bronchitis and dive into what makes them different - from the duration it takes to recover to what treatments are available to help manage symptoms. Read on to learn everything you need to know about bronchitis!

Symptoms Of Bronchitis and How Long Do They Last

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways within your lungs, which can cause coughing and shortness of breath for weeks. It can be acute or chronic and can affect people of all ages.

Knowing the signs and symptoms of bronchitis and how long they last can help you manage your condition more effectively and seek treatment if needed.

Symptoms Of Bronchitis

The symptoms of bronchitis depend on whether it's acute or chronic. The most common symptom in both forms is a cough that produces thick mucus. Other common symptoms include:

  • Wheezing
  • Dyspnea (difficulty breathing)
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Fatigue
  • Fever (in acute bronchitis)

In chronic bronchitis, symptoms may be more persistent and last longer. It can also cause a decrease in appetite, weight loss, and difficulty sleeping due to increased shortness of breath. In rare cases, it can lead to pneumonia or other respiratory illnesses.

How long do the Symptoms Last

The duration of symptoms depends on the type of bronchitis.

Acute bronchitis

Acute bronchitis typically lasts between 10 and 14 days and is usually caused by a virus or bacteria infection. The infection causes inflammation in your airways and makes breathing difficult, leading to coughing and mucus production.

Most people with acute bronchitis feel better after about a week, although the cough may linger for up to four weeks.

Chronic bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis lasts longer than acute bronchitis and is more likely to affect adults. The symptoms of chronic bronchitis can come and go for two years or longer, with bouts of acute bronchitis in between.

Older adults tend to experience more severe symptoms over a longer duration of time. These can include rapid breathing and confused thinking, leading to complications such as pneumonia if not properly treated.

What Causes Bronchitis

There are two types of bronchitis - acute and chronic - each with its causes. Let's look at what causes bronchitis so you can better understand how to best manage the condition.

Acute Bronchitis Causes

A viral or bacterial infection usually causes acute bronchitis. It's most commonly caused by viruses, such as influenza or respiratory syncytial (RSV).

Sometimes, it may be caused by bacteria like Streptococcus pneumonia, Haemophilus influenza, or Moraxella catarrhalis. It's also possible to have bacterial and viral bronchitis simultaneously.

Smoking cigarettes is a major risk factor for developing acute bronchitis. Inhaling smoke can irritate your airways, leading to inflammation and an increased risk of infection. Exposure to air pollutants like dust, fumes, and chemical vapors can also trigger acute bronchitis in some people.

Chronic Bronchitis Causes

Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of chronic bronchitis. The toxins in tobacco smoke damage the lungs over time, leading to chronic bronchitis and other respiratory conditions.

Living with someone who smokes or secondhand smoke exposure can also increase your risk of developing chronic bronchitis. Environmental pollutants like dust, fumes, and chemical vapors can also trigger the condition in some people.

It's important to note that a common cold or other upper respiratory infection can sometimes lead to acute bronchitis if left untreated.

If you have any signs and symptoms of bronchitis, it is important to contact your doctor as soon as possible for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. With proper management, many people with chronic bronchitis can reduce their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

How Long Are You Contagious

When it comes to how long you're contagious when suffering from bronchitis, the answer depends on the type and cause of the illness.

Acute bronchitis is typically caused by viruses such as the cold or flu, which are highly contagious and can spread quickly through contact with an infected person. Generally, a person will become contagious in the hours preceding initial symptom onset until symptoms subside.

Bacterial acute bronchitis is less contagious than viral forms of the disease, but those with weakened immune systems, children, and older adults are at greater risk of infection. If antibiotics are taken for bacterial acute bronchitis, one should usually be free of contagion within 24 to 48 hours.

On the other hand, chronic bronchitis isn't usually contagious and can't be passed from person to person. In cases where acute and chronic bronchitis is present, however, someone can pass on the acute form of the illness.

To avoid passing on or catching an infection, those suffering from bronchitis must practice good hygiene by washing their hands regularly with soap and warm water and avoiding contact with others who may have contracted the virus.

It is also recommended that people with bronchitis stay home until they are no longer contagious to reduce illness transmission. With proper care and treatment, most cases of acute bronchitis will resolve within two weeks, while chronic forms may last for months.

Can You Treat Bronchitis At Home and When To Seek Professional Help

Yes, it is possible to treat bronchitis at home. The key to successful treatment is ensuring you get plenty of rest and fluids and using some of the methods above to alleviate symptoms.

Over-the-counter pain medications can help reduce fever and discomfort, while a humidifier or steam can help break up mucus and make breathing easier. Herbal supplements such as ginger or garlic may also help soothe irritation in the bronchial airways.

Additionally, avoiding smoking cigarettes and exposure to secondhand smoke will improve your chances of recovery. These steps should allow you to recover from bronchitis quicker with less severe symptoms. However, it's important to contact your doctor if your symptoms worsen or do not show improvement after a few days. They can recommend further treatments and may even prescribe medication if necessary.

Treatments for Bronchitis

Prescription Medications

Your doctor may prescribe medications to help reduce inflammation in the bronchial airways and make breathing easier. These include short-term steroids, antibiotics, and bronchodilators like albuterol. These medications should not be taken without consulting a physician as they can have side effects or interact with other drugs you're taking.

Inhaled Treatments

Inhaled treatments such as nebulizers can relieve coughing and chest tightness by delivering medication directly into your lungs. Inhalers are also available for those with mild to moderate symptoms; these deliver bronchodilator medication and can be used up to four times daily if needed.

FAQs

How do I know when the bronchitis is getting better?

When bronchitis improves, you should experience less coughing and difficulty breathing. Your fever should also improve, and your chest pain may subside. Additionally, your mucus production should decrease as well.

How often do you need to see a doctor if you have bronchitis?

If you are experiencing severe bronchitis symptoms, contacting your doctor as soon as possible is important. Depending on the severity of your bronchitis, your doctor may recommend a follow-up appointment in two weeks or sooner.

Can bronchitis cause other health problems?

Bronchitis can lead to serious health issues, including pneumonia, sinus infections, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It's important to seek medical treatment at the first sign of bronchitis symptoms.

Conclusion

Bronchitis is an airway inflammation that can cause coughing and difficulty breathing. There are two types of bronchitis - acute and chronic - each with its causes, complications, treatments, and durations. Generally, acute bronchitis lasts for several weeks, while chronic bronchitis can persist for months. Treating bronchitis involves rest, fluids, and over-the-counter pain relief medication. If symptoms persist or worsen, contacting your doctor as soon as possible is important to avoid further complications.

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