Bronchitis affects the bronchial tubes that connect the nose and mouth with the lungs, so the respiratory condition causes symptoms that affect breathing.
Chronic cases typically cause no symptoms or only mild symptoms in its early stages, but symptoms become more severe as the disease progresses.
Symptoms of acute bronchitis include:
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Low-grade fever
- Chest congestion
- Wheezing or a whistling sound while breathing
- A cough that may produce green or yellow mucus
- Feeling fatigued, tired, or run-down
Symptoms of chronic bronchitis include:
- Frequent coughing or a cough that produces a significant amount of mucus
- A squeaky or whistling sound while breathing
- Shortness of breath, particularly during physical activity
- Tightness in the chest
- Frequent respiratory infections, in some cases
Do you need antibiotics for bronchitis?
Antibiotics will not treat most cases of bronchitis. The reason? Viruses cause up to 90 percent of all acute cases, and antibiotics are not effective in the treatment of viral infections. Doctors may recommend antibiotics to treat those rare acute cases caused by bacterial infection, though.
Healthcare providers may prescribe antibiotics to patients whose chronic bronchitis is worsening because of a lung infection or who have severe coughing that causes chest pain or other serious health issues.
How long does it take to recover from bronchitis?
It can take up to 3 weeks to recover from acute cases, depending on the severity of the infection and symptoms. Treatment—such as rest, fluids and over-the-counter medications—can alleviate symptoms to make recovery seem faster.
Because it is a lifelong condition, patients almost never recover completely to their former health with chronic bronchitis. That being said, treatment can help patients with chronic bronchitis recover from lung infections and other complications of this condition.
How do you know when you have bronchitis?
People often know they have this condition when they develop a cough or other symptoms, such as excessive sputum (saliva and mucus mixture) production, shortness of breath, wheezing, and fatigue.
A diagnosis from a healthcare provider is the only sure way for someone to know if they have this condition, though.