How long can you expect to have bronchitis? (2023)

The duration of bronchitis depends on several factors. Most people with acute (short-term) bronchitis have symptoms in two to eight weeks. However, chronic (long-term) bronchitis, which is common in people who smoke, can last much longer.

This article will review the types of bronchitis, its causes, and its duration.

How long can you expect to have bronchitis? (1)

chronic vs acute bronchitis

There are two main types of bronchitis: acute and chronic. During bronchitis, the tubes that lead from the trachea to the lungs (calledbronchi) swell and produce a protective mucus that triggers a cough.

The most common and least serious type of bronchitis is acute bronchitis. An infection likecommon cold or flu triggers acute bronchitis. This infection can be a virus or (less often) bacteria or fungi. With acute bronchitis, sometimes called a cold, you can still be contagious.

Without complications, acute bronchitis lasts less than three weeks. You should be able to recover on your own without prescription drugs. Rest and over-the-counter medicines to treat coughs, loosen mucus, and relieve pain and fever should be enough to treat symptoms.

The second trigger for bronchitis is environmental and causes chronic bronchitis. Prolonged exposure to pollutants or tobacco smoke irritates the bronchial tubes and causes a buildup of mucus.

Chronic bronchitis is a type ofChronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a type of disease that makes breathing difficult. It lasts at least three months and returns year after year. You must receive long-term treatment for this.

symptoms of bronchitis

Although the causes of bronchitis are different, acute and chronic bronchitis have similar symptoms.

Acute bronchitis will begin.cold-like symptomsor respiratory infection, including:

  • A stuffy and runny nose
  • sneezing
  • Sore or scraped throat
  • Tos
  • Headache
  • Muscle pains
  • Decreased appetite

Persistent symptoms of acute and chronic bronchitis include:

  • Persistent tiredness, headaches and body aches
  • A cough that keeps you awake at night.
  • chest pain from coughing
  • sore throat from cough
  • low fever
  • Hissing, hissing, or wheezingwhile breathing
  • Chest tightness

Bronchitis x Pneumonia

How long does each one last?

chronic bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis lasts at least three months of the year and recurs every year for at least two years. It can be a persistent problem that lasts for the rest of your life.

A medical professional can help treat the symptoms of bronchitis.with inhalers, drugs and other therapies. Quitting smoking can also help improve the symptoms of chronic bronchitis.

Whilechronic bronchitis itself is not contagious, can cause frequent colds, flu, and other respiratory illnesses that can be spread to other people.

acute bronchitis

In general, you should feel better from your acute bronchitis within a week or two, although you may have a persistent cough and fatigue for three weeks or more.

(Video) How do you know if you have bronchitis?

The types of viruses and bacteria that cause bronchitis are usually in your system for two to six days before you start to experience cold symptoms.Once you start to feel bad, it will feel like you have a cold or flu that lasts from a few to 10 days. Other symptoms may go away, but you may develop a persistent cough for a few weeks.

Bronchitis, especially if it's viral, can be passed to other people just hours after coming into contact with it, long before you develop symptoms. You're going to becontagious through the illness phase of the cold or flu- at least a few days, maybe even a week.


A doctor will only prescribeantibiotics for bronchitisif they think bacteria is causing your symptoms and you are at high risk that the infection will not resolve on its own. This may apply to you if you are older, frail, or have other conditions that can make your bronchitis worse. Antibiotics will not cure your viral bronchitis faster.


Prolonged coughing and irritation from bronchitis can cause some complications. Prolonged or aggressive coughing fits can irritate or injure the tissues in the throat, causing bleeding and sores.

Irritation of the airways can allow bacteria to enter and take hold, creating a new "secondary" infection different from the one that initially caused the bronchitis.

Bronchitis can alsoturn into pneumonia, a more serious and life-threatening infection of the lungs. The lungs fill with fluid, making it difficult to breathe. You may also have a fever, chills, and chest pain.

You will need to see a doctor for your pneumonia. If aThe bacteria caused his pneumonia., antibiotics will likely be prescribed to treat it.viral pneumoniait usually goes away on its own in a few weeks. But it can be treated with antiviral drugs if it is severe or the patient is at risk of being hospitalized.

It can take a while to recover from pneumonia. Some feel better in a week or so. In others, the disease persists for a month or more.

When to see a doctor

Chronic bronchitis can get worse over time and therefore needs to be treated. You should see a doctor as soon as possible if you suspect you may have chronic bronchitis.

Most of the time, acute bronchitis should resolve on its own. But contact a medical professional if you have:

  • A temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Bloody mucus from a lot of coughing
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Symptoms that persist for more than three weeks
  • Bronchitis that goes away and comes back

If you think your bronchitis has become a secondary infection or has moved to your lungs and caused pneumonia, contact a doctor.


Acute bronchitis is usually caused by an infection. It usually starts to go away in a week or two, but you may have a cough for three weeks. Chronic bronchitis is caused by environmental irritants. It has a minimum duration of three months and is carried out annually. It is a long-term condition that needs ongoing treatment.

A word from Verywell

Chronic bronchitis is a lifelong condition, but you can manage it with the help of a health professional. If you have been diagnosed with chronic bronchitis, it is essential to maintain a relationship with your doctor and manage your condition properly.

Lifestyle changes can reduce the symptoms of chronic bronchitis and prevent them from getting worse. Seek help from a medical professional to quit smoking and work to reduce your exposure to other irritants. Physical activity can help strengthen your lungs, so ask about your options. You can prevent future infections by getting vaccinated against the flu and pneumonia.

frequent questions

  • How long does a bronchitis cough last?

    (Video) Acute Bronchitis - Causes, Symptoms, Treatments & More…

    A typical case of bronchitis caused by a viral or bacterial infection lasts between a week and 10 days. If your cough does not improve or worsens after 10 days, see your doctor. If the cough persists for more than three weeks, call your doctor.

  • How to know when bronchitis is improving?

    Bronchitis can make you miserable and unable to do much for a week or so. Coughing can keep you up at night and you can get tired quickly. You'll know you're turning a corner when your chest congestion lessens and you have more energy. Your cough will probably be more productive and may sound worse, but it will start to feel better.

  • How do you know if bronchitis is turning into pneumonia?

    Bronchitis can worsen and turn into pneumonia. Pneumonia is a serious condition in which the lungs fill with fluid and breathing becomes more difficult. Symptoms of pneumonia include:

    • Chest pain when breathing or coughing
    • Shaking chills
    • Diarrhea
    • Fever
    • nausea or vomiting
    • productive cough

    If you experience these symptoms, see your doctor.

8 fuentes

Verywell Health only uses high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts in our articles. read ourpublishing processto learn more about how we fact check and keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

  1. Medicina Johns Hopkins.acute bronchitis.

  2. Medline Plus.acute bronchitis.

  3. Medline Plus.chronic bronchitis.

  4. Medline Plus.common flu.

  5. Allan GM, Arroll B.Prevention and treatment of the common cold: understanding the evidence.CMJ. 2014;186(3):190-199. doi:10.1503/cmaj.121442

  6. Cleveland Clinic.Bronchitis.

  7. Smith SM, Fahey T, Smucny J, Becker LA.antibiotics for acute bronchitis.Cochrane Database System Review. 2017;6(6):CD000245. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD000245.pub4

  8. Medline Plus.Pneumonia.

(Video) How long does it take to get over Bronchitis with antibiotics? - Dr. Sanjay Gupta

How long can you expect to have bronchitis? (2)

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Jennifer Welsh is a Connecticut-based science writer and editor with more than ten years of experience. She has worked and written for WIRED Science, The Scientist, Discover Magazine, LiveScience, and Business Insider.

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(Video) Acute bronchitis: Everything You Need To Know


What are the stages of bronchitis? ›

Symptoms of acute bronchitis typically start with a runny nose, sore throat, productive cough, and low-grade fever. Three or four days later, a dry, hacking cough may develop. Most cases of acute bronchitis last between three and 10 days.

What helps bronchitis go away faster? ›

Home remedies
  • Getting plenty of rest. ...
  • Drinking enough fluid. ...
  • Using a humidifier. ...
  • Quitting smoking. ...
  • Following a healthful diet. ...
  • Treating body aches and pains. ...
  • Avoiding over-the-counter cough suppressants. ...
  • Using pursed-lip breathing.

Why will my bronchitis not go away? ›

If you have acute bronchitis that's getting worse, you could have an infection that requires antibiotics. Most cases of bronchitis clear up on their own, but not all of them. if you have any underlying health conditions, you're at a higher risk to have bronchitis that can't go away on it's own.

What's the longest bronchitis can last? ›

Acute bronchitis can last for up to 90 days. Chronic bronchitis can last for months or sometimes years. If chronic bronchitis decreases the amount of air flowing to the lungs, it is considered to be a sign of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

What is the best medicine for bronchitis? ›

Albuterol is one of the more common bronchodilators prescribed for treating bronchitis. It comes in the from of an inhaler. Steroids: If chronic bronchitis symptoms are stable or slowly getting worse, inhaled steroids, can be used to help minimize bronchial tube inflammation.

What does a bronchitis cough sound like? ›

A bronchitis cough sounds like a rattle with a wheezing or whistling sound. As your condition progresses, you will first have a dry cough that can then progress towards coughing up white mucus.

What are 3 symptoms of bronchitis? ›

  • Cough.
  • Production of mucus (sputum), which can be clear, white, yellowish-gray or green in color — rarely, it may be streaked with blood.
  • Fatigue.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Slight fever and chills.
  • Chest discomfort.
Apr 11, 2017

How contagious is bronchitis? ›

Bronchitis itself isn't contagious, but some of its causes are. If your bronchitis is caused by a virus, you can be contagious for a few days to a week. If your bronchitis is caused by bacteria, you usually stop being contagious 24 hours after starting antibiotics. Other causes of bronchitis aren't contagious.

What triggers bronchitis? ›

In most cases, bronchitis is caused by the same viruses that cause the common cold or flu. The virus is contained in the millions of tiny droplets that come out of the nose and mouth when someone coughs or sneezes. These droplets typically spread about 1m (3ft).

What are the signs that bronchitis is getting better? ›

You will know you are turning a corner when your chest congestion loosens and you have more energy. Your cough will likely be more productive and may sound worse, but you will start to feel better. How do you know if bronchitis is turning into pneumonia? Bronchitis can worsen and become pneumonia.

How do you know if bronchitis is turning into pneumonia? ›

If bronchitis becomes pneumonia, a person's symptoms usually worsen. They will have a cough with mucus and a fever. If a doctor cannot diagnose pneumonia based on the person's symptoms, they may suggest a chest X-ray or blood test.

What makes bronchitis worse? ›

Air pollution, chemical fumes, and dust also can make chronic bronchitis worse. Get an influenza (flu) vaccine every year. This may keep the flu from turning into something more serious, like pneumonia. A flu vaccine also may lower your chances of having a flare-up.

Do I need antibiotics for bronchitis? ›

Treatment. Acute bronchitis usually gets better on its own—without antibiotics. Antibiotics won't help you get better if you have acute bronchitis. When antibiotics aren't needed, they won't help you, and their side effects could still cause harm.

When should I go to the doctor for bronchitis? ›

If you persistently cough up frank, red blood, you should seek medical advice. Fever higher than 102°F, a fever that lasts more than a few days, shortness of breath, a change in the mucus color or coughing with unexplained weight loss are all also signs you should see a physician,” Dr. Supakul says.

How do you stop a bronchitis cough? ›

Relief for Acute Bronchitis
  1. Drink lots of fluids, especially water. Try eight to 12 glasses a day to help thin out that mucus and make it easier to cough up. ...
  2. Get plenty of rest.
  3. Use over-the-counter pain relievers with ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), or aspirin to help with pain.
Dec 19, 2022

What is the best position to sleep with bronchitis? ›

Lie on your side with a pillow between your legs and your head elevated with pillows. Keep your back straight. Lie on your back with your head elevated and your knees bent, with a pillow under your knees.

Why does bronchitis last so long? ›

Your cough can last for several weeks or more. This happens because the bronchial tubes take a while to heal. A lasting cough may signal another problem, such as asthma or pneumonia.

Is bronchitis a form of Covid? ›

Acute Bronchitis

It's usually caused by the same viruses that cause colds and the flu. But it can also be a symptom of COVID-19. Coronaviruses and other viruses that affect your respiratory system can cause bronchitis. This can sometimes lead to pneumonia, an infection of the tiny air sacs in your lungs.

Is it a good thing to coughing up bronchitis? ›

Dr. Supakul says acute bronchitis symptoms usually get better in about a week, although the cough can last for many weeks afterward. While uncomfortable, the coughing is actually a good response. It helps clear much mucus from the air tubes.

Is bronchitis a dry or wet cough? ›

The main symptom of acute bronchitis is a cough. This is usually a dry cough at first, but it may later develop into a phlegmy cough, where you cough up mucus (sputum). Doctors call this a "productive" cough.

What is the most obvious symptom of bronchitis? ›

Signs and symptoms

The most obvious symptom of acute bronchitis is a short-term dry hacking cough, which can become a productive cough that produces white or yellow sputum. Wheezing and shortness of breath may also be present.

How can I check my bronchitis at home? ›

The most common symptoms of bronchitis are:
  1. Runny, stuffy nose.
  2. Low-grade fever.
  3. Chest congestion.
  4. Wheezing or a whistling sound while breathing.
  5. A cough that may produce yellow or green mucus (sputum)
  6. Feeling run-down or tired.
Nov 17, 2022

What hurts with bronchitis? ›

You may have pain in your muscles, or pain in your lungs when you take a deep breath with both types of bronchitis, especially if you are coughing really hard, for long periods of time.

How do they test for bronchitis? ›

How to diagnose bronchitis. First, we perform a physical examination and take your medical history. Next, we may order a chest x-ray or a lung test that tests the capacity, health, and function of your lungs.

How long should I stay home with bronchitis? ›

If the bronchitis was caused by a bacterial infection, it can be treated with antibiotics. You are no longer considered contagious after 48 hours of taking antibiotics. Sometimes, people with asthma develop acute bronchitis, which is a result of a complication of a preexisting condition—it is not contagious.

Should I stay home if I have bronchitis? ›

Frequently Asked Questions. Should you stay home from work or school with bronchitis? Yes. You should stay home for a few days so you can get rest and prevent others from getting sick.

Should I stay away from someone with bronchitis? ›

Yes. Most of the time, acute bronchitis is caused by a virus, such as the flu (influenza) virus. However, many different viruses — all of which are very contagious — can cause acute bronchitis.

How serious is bronchitis? ›

With chronic bronchitis, the condition is much more serious, ongoing (long-term), and results in the bronchial tubes being constantly inflamed and irritated. Long term lung damage or disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), can develop if chronic bronchitis is left untreated.

How do you know if bronchitis is getting better? ›

You will know you are turning a corner when your chest congestion loosens and you have more energy. Your cough will likely be more productive and may sound worse, but you will start to feel better. How do you know if bronchitis is turning into pneumonia? Bronchitis can worsen and become pneumonia.

How do you know when bronchitis is serious? ›

Most cases of bronchitis can be treated easily at home with rest, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and plenty of fluids. You only need to see your GP if your symptoms are severe or unusual – for example, if: your cough is severe or lasts longer than three weeks.

How do you know if bronchitis turns into pneumonia? ›

If bronchitis becomes pneumonia, a person's symptoms usually worsen. They will have a cough with mucus and a fever. If a doctor cannot diagnose pneumonia based on the person's symptoms, they may suggest a chest X-ray or blood test.

Does bronchitis get worse before it gets better? ›

Chronic bronchitis symptoms appear gradually and usually worsen over time. Acute bronchitis may also cause a low grade fever. People with chronic bronchitis may also have frequent respiratory infections and shortness of breath.

Why is my bronchitis lasting so long? ›

If you have chronic bronchitis, your cough generally lasts longer than six weeks because the airways are repeatedly irritated by one or more of the causes listed above, especially tobacco smoke. In addition to persistent coughing, you may have these symptoms: Tightness in your chest. Mucus when you cough.

Should I let bronchitis run its course? ›

Most cases of bronchitis go away on their own. The infection simply has to run its course over several weeks. Treatment options your doctor may suggest are: Resting and getting plenty of fluids.

How do I know if my bronchitis is viral or bacterial? ›

In addition to lab tests, sputum or mucus from a cough can be visually examined to determine whether bronchitis is viral, bacterial, or both. Clear or white mucus often indicates a viral infection, while yellow or green mucus may suggest a bacterial infection.

How long should you wait to go to the doctor for bronchitis? ›

Bronchitis often clears up within a week or so, but the cough can stick around for weeks, or even months later, especially if you have a lung problem. While you're sick, call your doctor if you start to run a high fever, you feel short of breath or have chest pain, or your cough just won't go away.

Should you stay home with bronchitis? ›

If you have symptoms of bronchitis, stay home to avoid spreading your viral infection to others. To properly treat your acute bronchitis, get plenty of rest, drink lots of liquids, and take over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) to treat your symptoms.

Can bronchitis turn into COVID? ›

Bronchitis doesn't cause COVID-19 or make you more likely to get it. But if you have chronic bronchitis or other health problems, you're more likely to get very sick if you do catch COVID-19. (Many conditions put people at higher risk with COVID-19.)

What helps a bronchitis cough? ›

Lifestyle and home remedies
  1. Avoid lung irritants. Don't smoke. ...
  2. Use a humidifier. Warm, moist air helps relieve coughs and loosens mucus in your airways. ...
  3. Consider a face mask outside. If cold air aggravates your cough and causes shortness of breath, put on a cold-air face mask before you go outside.
Apr 11, 2017

What causes bronchitis to flare up? ›

Most often, the same viruses that give you a cold or the flu cause acute bronchitis. But sometimes, bacteria bring it on. In both cases, as your body fights the germs, your bronchial tubes swell and make more mucus. That means you have smaller openings for air to flow through, which can make it harder to breathe.


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