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Bronchitis 6 weeks: Symptoms, How Long It Lasts, Recovery

Symptoms, How Long It Lasts, Recovery

Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on January 15, 2022

Bronchitis is an inflammation in the lungs that some people call a chest cold. It can be a miserable, but minor, illness that follows a viral illness like the common cold — or may follow a more serious condition like a chronic smoker’s hack. Bronchitis can also be caused by exposure to smoke, chemical irritants, or bacteria. A cough, phlegm, and feeling tired are typical symptoms of bronchitis, but these are also symptoms of other illnesses, so getting the right diagnosis and treatment is important.



When the bronchial tubes that carry air deep into your lungs become inflamed, the inner lining swells and grows thicker, narrowing the breathing passages. These irritated membranes also secrete extra mucus, which coats and sometimes clogs the small airways. Coughing spells are the body’s way of trying to clear out these secretions for easier breathing.

The main symptom of bronchitis is a productive cough that persists several days to weeks . Other symptoms that may occur are:

  • Fatigue
  • Wheezing sounds when breathing
  • Tightness or dull pain in the chest
  • Shortness of breath

Fever is unusual and suggests pneumonia or flu.


Acute bronchitis often develops three to four days after a cold or the flu. It may start with a dry cough, then after a few days the coughing spells may bring up mucus. Most people get over an acute bout of bronchitis in two to three weeks, although the cough can sometimes hang on for four weeks or more. If you’re in otherwise good health, your lungs will return to normal after you’ve recovered from the initial infection.

Doctors suspect this illness when you have a cough with phlegm on most days for at least three months in a year, for two years in a row. Chronic bronchitis is a serious condition that makes your lungs a breeding ground for bacterial infections and may require ongoing medical treatment. It’s one form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. The “smoker’s cough” is sometimes a sign of bronchitis and COPD.

The symptoms of bronchitis are often the same as those of other conditions, such as asthma, pneumonia, allergies, the common cold, influenza, sinusitis, and even gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and lung cancer. See your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis. Serious illnesses like pneumonia require prompt treatment.

Check in with your medical provider if you:

  • Feel short of breath or wheeze
  • Cough up blood
  • Have a fever greater than 101 F (38 C)
  • Have a cough lasting more than four weeks

This form of bronchitis is more common in winter and nine out of 10 cases are caused by a virus. Irritants — like tobacco smoke, smog, chemicals in household cleaners, even fumes or dust in the environment — can also cause acute bronchitis.

Smoking is by far the most common cause of chronic bronchitis. Workplace exposure to dust and toxic gases is a much less common cause, seen in miners and grain handlers. Air pollution can make symptoms worse for people with chronic bronchitis.

A smoker who gets acute bronchitis will have a much harder time recovering. Even one puff on a cigarette can cause temporary damage to the tiny hair-like structures (cilia) in the airways that brush out debris, irritants, and excess mucus. Further smoking continues the damage and increases the chances of chronic bronchitis, which can lead to increased risk of lung infection and permanent lung damage. Bottom line: It’s time to quit.

Doctors usually diagnose acute bronchitis by reviewing how your symptoms have developed over time and through a physical examination. Using a stethoscope, your doctor will listen for any abnormal sounds produced within your lungs when you breathe.

Your doctor may recommend pulmonary function testing after doing a medical history and physical exam. Pulmonary function tests like spirometry measure how well the lungs are working. A chest X-ray may also be done.

The only treatment generally needed for acute bronchitis is symptom relief: Drink lots of fluids; get plenty of rest; and avoiding smoke and fumes. A non-prescription pain reliever may help with body aches. Your doctor may prescribe an expectorant to help loosen mucus so it can be more easily coughed up or an inhaled bronchodilator medicine to open your airways.

If you have chronic bronchitis related to smoking, the most important thing to do is to quit smoking to prevent ongoing damage to your lungs. Unless your doctor advises against it, get a pneumococcal vaccine and an annual flu vaccine. Treatment may include bronchodilators and steroids (inhaled or by mouth).

Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are the two main forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Doctors may prescribe bronchodilators, which are drugs that help open constricted airways. Oxygen therapy helps some people breathe better and a pulmonary rehab program can improve your quality of life. Quitting smoking is a must to stop further lung damage.

It’s no surprise that the best way to decrease your risk is not to smoke or allow others to smoke in your home. Other ways include: avoiding colds and staying away from things that irritate your nose, throat, and lungs, such as dust or pets. Also, if you catch a cold, get plenty of rest and take your medicine as directed.


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University of California San Francisco Medical Center.

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How Long Does Bronchitis Last and When Should You See a Doctor?

Acute bronchitis typically lasts from 10 to 14 days, up to 3 weeks in some cases. Chronic bronchitis lasts at least three months, and episodes can come and go for two or more years after your initial recovery.

Bronchitis causes irritation and inflammation inside the bronchial tubes. It can be chronic or acute. The type of bronchitis you have determines how long it will last.

Acute bronchitis can be brought about as the result of another illness, such as a cold or the flu. It can also result from allergies.

Chronic bronchitis is a long lasting form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Read on to learn more about bronchitis and what you can do to improve your recovery.

Acute bronchitis can occur in people of any age, although it’s not common in infants. Acute bronchitis usually lasts from 10 to 14 days, but some symptoms may last longer. For example, you may have a lingering cough that lasts for a month or sometimes longer. This is true for both children and adults.

Older adults may experience more severe symptoms over a longer duration of time. These symptoms can include rapid breathing and confused thinking. Elderly individuals may also be at a higher risk for complications, such as pneumonia.

Chronic bronchitis is more common in adults than in children. People with chronic bronchitis can also experience bouts of acute bronchitis.

Symptoms of chronic bronchitis include long-term irritation and inflammation of the bronchial tubes, and a chronic, phlegmy cough that lasts for at least three months. This is followed by episodic bouts of bronchitis, which can come and go for two years or longer.

Acute bronchitis can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection. It’s most commonly caused by viruses, such as the influenza virus. It’s also possible to have bacterial and viral bronchitis at the same time.

Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if they suspect you have bacterial bronchitis. These medications may help reduce the amount of time you’re contagious, but may not lessen the duration of symptoms, such as a cough. Antibiotics are not helpful for bronchitis caused by viruses.

Chronic bronchitis is often caused by cigarette smoking. It can also be caused by exposure to environmental toxins, such as air pollution or secondhand smoke.

Around 90 percent of all cases of acute bronchitis are caused by viruses, such as the cold or flu, which are contagious. These illnesses have an incubation period of between two to six days. People typically start to become contagious in the hours preceding the initial onset of symptoms and remain contagious until the symptoms go away. The persistent, dry cough that often follows bronchitis is caused by ongoing irritation of the bronchial tubes, not active infection. That means you’re unlikely to be contagious during this time.

Acute bronchitis that’s caused by bacterial infections is less contagious to otherwise healthy people, although you’re at greater risk of becoming infected if you have a compromised immune system, are a child, or are elderly. If you’re taking antibiotics for bacterial acute bronchitis, you’ll become less contagious or not contagious at all within 24 to 48 hours.

Chronic bronchitis is not usually contagious. Because you can have chronic and acute bronchitis at the same time, you may pass acute bronchitis to another person if you have both conditions.

Acute bronchitis usually goes away on its own, but you should consult your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • frequent episodes of acute bronchitis (this may indicate the beginning of chronic bronchitis)
  • a wheezing cough or a cough that doesn’t go away within three to four weeks
  • shortness of breath
  • coughing that expels blood or bloody mucus
  • symptoms that do not improve or worsen

Since some cases of acute bronchitis are caused by the flu virus, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications for you if the flu virus is suspected as a cause.

Bronchitis can lead to pneumonia and other complications, so it’s important to stay on top of your care and to seek medical support, if needed.

The type of bronchitis you have will determine, in large part, the duration. Elderly individuals, children, and people with compromised immune systems may be more vulnerable to certain types of bronchitis, such as those caused by bacteria.

Most cases of acute bronchitis are caused by viruses and do not respond to antibiotics. Acute bronchitis usually goes away without medical intervention within several weeks. If you have symptoms which do not improve or worsen, see your doctor. That may be a sign of chronic bronchitis.

Acute bronchitis in a child – treatment and symptoms of bronchitis in Moscow

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treatment of bronchitis in a child, symptoms of acute and chronic bronchitis

According to statistics, every year for every thousand children there are 200-300 cases of bronchitis of various etiologies. The disease requires treatment, which must be carried out taking into account the type of pathogen.

Bronchitis in children – types and symptoms

From January 1, 2022, the World Health Organization introduces an updated – eleventh – version of the International Classification of Diseases. Acute bronchitis in it is indicated by the ICD-11 code J20. This is the most common clinical form of bronchopulmonary diseases in children. Especially vulnerable are children under three years of age, whose respiratory and immune systems are not sufficiently developed.

Often inflammation of the bronchi in children develops against the background of respiratory viral diseases. Among the pathogens may be bacteria, including pneumococcus, moraxella, Haemophilus influenzae, pathogens of intracellular infections (chlamydia, mycoplasma). The bacterial nature of the disease is more typical for children with malformations of the bronchopulmonary system, cystic fibrosis, immunodeficiency diseases. A special form is aspiration bronchitis that occurs in children of the first year of life with chronic aspiration of food eaten, bronchitis in children exposed to active or passive smoking. Repeated episodes of acute bronchitis with bronchial obstruction syndrome require the exclusion of bronchial asthma in a child. In order to make an accurate diagnosis, the doctor assesses the condition of the child, if pneumonia or a foreign body in the respiratory tract is suspected, he prescribes an x-ray of the chest organs, if necessary, determines the type of pathogen.

Signs of bronchitis in a child depend on the severity of the illness. Age also matters. Children under six months of age, who have not developed a cough reflex, are especially seriously ill. Symptoms of acute bronchitis at the initial stage of the disease include an increase in body temperature to 37-38 ° C and above (the temperature may not rise), dry or wet cough with sputum, hoarseness.

With a hacking dry cough, there is a raw pain behind the sternum, soreness when swallowing. During a medical examination, auscultation reveals hard breathing, scattered symmetrical dry and / or moist rales. Shortness of breath, wheezing in most cases are absent.

With proper treatment, the symptoms of acute bronchitis resolve within 1-2 weeks. Cough in infants, in whom bronchitis is often caused by respiratory syncytial infection, and in older children with mycoplasma or adenovirus infection, can last more than two weeks.

Frequent bronchitis with repeated episodes of 2-3 or more times a year indicate recurrent bronchitis. In this variant, repeated episodes of bronchitis occur against the background of respiratory viral infections. It occurs more often in children of the first 4-5 years of life. Chronic bronchitis is rarely diagnosed in children, it is mainly a variant of the course of serious diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, malformations of the bronchopulmonary system, and other chronic lung diseases. The difficulty in treatment lies in the fact that the final diagnosis is made only after two years, if relapses occurred during this period.

Treatment of bronchitis in a child

Treatment of bronchitis is not a fight against cough, as mothers often think, but elimination of its cause. By itself, coughing is a protective reflex included in the work of the immune system. Mucus is the secret of the tracheobronchial tree, which moisturizes the mucosa and retains germs and dust. Mucus also contains immune cells that fight infection.

Diagnosis is based on the results of auscultation of the lungs, blood test, X-ray, if necessary, examination of the function of external respiration (PFR) and sputum, computed tomography, bronchoscopy.
All children with acute bronchitis are advised to drink plenty of warm water throughout the day. Clinical recommendations for treatment include a course of pharmacotherapy and physiotherapy. Mucolytics, antibacterial and antitussive agents are used. Inhalations with drugs, ultraviolet irradiation, drainage (vibration) massage, exercise therapy are also effective. The choice of antibacterial drugs depends on the type of pathogen.

Inhalations for bronchitis in children

For inhalation, a nebulizer is used: it sprays the drug into microscopic particles 5–10 µm in size. The following types of nebulizers are available:

  • membrane;
  • jet;
  • ultrasonic;
  • convection;
  • adaptive delivery devices.

Massage for bronchitis in children

Drainage massage is used to remove sputum. Infants do not have a cough reflex. Mucus sticks to the walls of the bronchus, a focus of inflammation occurs. Chest drainage is carried out in order to stimulate the cough reflex, not only with its decrease, but also with its normal severity to facilitate the cleansing of the bronchi and speed up the recovery of the child. From light tapping along the spine and along the lateral surfaces, the back and chest vibrate, blood flow increases. Mucus is separated from the wall of the bronchus and thus sputum is excreted.

Drugs for bronchitis in children

The choice of drugs in the treatment of bronchitis depends on the clinical form, the condition of the child and the type of pathogen. The following classes of drugs are used:

  • bronchodilators;
  • antibacterial;
  • anti-inflammatory;
  • antitussives;
  • sputum thinners.

Let’s clarify a few points. Firstly, sputum-thinning mucolytics and expectorants are not recommended for children under three years of age. If you further stimulate the secretion of mucus, the child may not be able to cope with coughing.

Secondly, when the temperature is high, acetylsalicylic acid should not be given to children. Possible side effect: Reye’s syndrome with severe liver damage.

Thirdly, paracetamol and ibuprofen are recommended to lower the temperature. Ibuprofen is more effective, but it should not be used for disorders in the gastrointestinal tract and heart.

Fourth, antibiotics for bronchitis are used only when the disease is caused by bacteria. They do not work on viruses.

Syrup or potion is suitable for treating a child: it is easier for children to take medicine in liquid form. Relief of the condition can be facilitated, for example, by Rengalin. This universal drug is available in the form of a solution and tablets. Suitable for adults and children from three years old. It is used to treat both dry and wet coughs.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I tell if my child has bronchitis?

You can recognize the disease by the behavior of the child. The malaise is manifested in lethargy, drowsiness, coughing, fever.

What causes bronchitis in children?

First of all, these are viral and bacterial infections. There are other triggers, including psychosomatics. Stress can cause bronchitis in a teenager.

How to distinguish bronchitis from pneumonia in a child?

Bronchitis can be identified by signs of SARS with a gradual increase in symptoms. Pneumonia begins abruptly, the temperature rises faster. Diagnosis requires radiography and a clinical blood test.

What kind of cough does a child have with bronchitis?

The cough is dry and wet with sputum production.