Bronchitis is an extremely common condition that typically affects people with colds or flu. The most common symptoms of bronchitis are rattling in the chest, congestion, and mucus. When these symptoms arise, you may feel that it’s something more serious than a common cold.
So, what bronchitis exactly is? It’s a respiratory condition in which the lining of the bronchial tubes is inflamed. The bronchial tubes are essential since they carry air to and from your lungs. That’s why bronchitis provokes wheezing, coughing, and other symptoms that impact your ability to breathe normally.
As mentioned above, bronchitis is usually the result of a cold or flu virus. In fact, 85 to 95 percent of acute bronchitis cases are triggered by viruses that affect the respiratory system. Though the underlying virus is almost always contagious, bronchitis itself is not contagious.
People who have an underlying lung disease like asthma, smoke, or are systematically exposed to certain chemicals and irritants have a higher risk of getting acute bronchitis. Here are 11 main symptoms of bronchitis you need to know:
Low-grade fever, fatigue, headache, and chills
Bronchitis typically occurs on top of the symptoms of whatever viral illness you had. Therefore, you might have low-grade fever and headaches, but this is not due to bronchitis.
Mucus is a hallmark of bronchitis and it can vary from clear yellow to green. The color of mucus depends on what type of infection or virus you’ve caught. Once the virus is gone and mucus dissipates, your cough might become dry.
Since you constantly cough due to bronchitis, your throat becomes irritated and sore.
Rattling in the chest and raspy cough
A cough that’s provoked by bronchitis is always accompanied by mucus in your chest. This type of cough is called “productive” cough which can lead to the sensation of rattling in your chest when you cough or breathe in.
Shortness of breath, chest tightness or pain, and wheezing
The cough might also be accompanied by chest tightness or even chest pain that can persist for five to six weeks. Wheezing is when your breaths cause a whistling or rattling sound since your airways are blocked. It’s also common in people with asthma. But keep in mind that chest pain that persists for more than two months might indicate something serious like pneumonia or heart problems. So pay attention to the duration of your symptoms.
Since most cases of bronchitis are caused by viral infections, this condition can’t be treated with antibiotics. Even if your doctor suspects you have bacterial bronchitis, you might need to wait until the infection clears from your system on its own without special treatment. Many cases of bronchitis usually clear up on their own within a few weeks.
However, your healthcare provider can prescribe certain things to manage bronchitis symptoms and make you more comfortable while your body fights the infection. For example, treatment for headaches might include over-the-counter meds, like aspirin, NSAIDs, or acetaminophen.
When it comes to your cough, it’s essential to avoid lung irritants as much as possible. Many people often turn to cough suppressants to sleep better at night but that’s a bad idea since cough is the way your body uses to get rid of the infection. You can try a humidifier to loosen up your mucus and make it easier for you to get rid of.
If you have an underlying chronic disease, for instance, asthma, a specialist might also prescribe an inhaler or other bronchodilator medications to lower the inflammation in your airways and make it easier for you to breathe.