Close this search box.


Bronchitis means swelling in your air passages (bronchi). Bronchi are the air passages that connect your windpipe (trachea) with tiny air sacs (alveoli) in your lungs. The air sacs are where your body absorbs the oxygen you breathe in.

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchi. This inflammation means the walls of your bronchi are swollen and filled with extra sticky mucus. Airflow into and out of your lungs is partly blocked because of the swelling and extra mucus in your bronchi. This makes you cough.

There are two kinds of bronchitis:

  1. Acute bronchitis makes you sick for a while, but gets better after two to three weeks.
  2. Chronic bronchitis doesn’t go away. With chronic bronchitis, you have a cough with mucus most days for three months of the year.
View our chronic cough page to learn about your cough.

View our COPD page if you have been diagnosed with chronic bronchitis.

The best way to prevent bronchitis it to stay away from cigarette smoke — don’t smoke, and don’t go near second-hand smoke. If you smoke, quit — it’s not easy, but it’s the best thing you can do to slow down the damage in your lungs. Avoid germs. Read how to can help prevent getting the cold and flu. Get the flu vaccine every year. Learn how you can keep your lungs healthy.

If you have acute bronchitis, you probably feel the symptoms of a cold or flu (upper respiratory tract infection).

  • After a few days you may feel these symptoms:
  • You cough up extra mucus
  • Wheezing in your chest — it feels harder to breathe

See your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms last for more than three weeks
  • You have trouble breathing when you lie down
  • You have a high fever
  • You have chest or shoulder pain
  • You cough up blood or a bad-tasting mucus (sticky fluid from your lungs)
  • You are short of breath
  • You have swollen feet
  • You have had acute bronchitis many times — this could signal that you have a chronic (long-term) problem in your lungs

Most of the time, acute bronchitis goes away on its own, as long as you take good care of yourself. Get lots of rest, drink plenty of water and try to cough up the mucus. If you smoke, cut down or stop when you have bronchitis — this will allow your lungs to recover much faster.

Here are some things that may help you feel better:

  • Avoid smoke, and don’t smoke.
  • Get lots of rest.
  • Drink lots of clear fluids such and water.
  • Use a cough drop or a hard candy to help with a dry sore throat.

If you get medical treatment, the doctor may prescribe inhaled corticosteroids, the kind of medicine people with asthma take to reduce the swelling in their airways. If the doctor finds that your bronchitis is caused by bacteria, they will prescribe antibiotics.

If you already have a chronic lung disease like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease COPD and you get acute bronchitis, follow the instructions in your written action plan. This may mean taking more of your medicines. Pay close attention to your symptoms and see your doctor or go to emergency if breathing is difficult.

Acute bronchitis, swelling in your bronchi, is usually caused by viruses — the same viruses that give you the common cold. The viruses attack the insides of your airways and infect them. Your airways react by getting red and swollen, and by making extra mucus.

Acute bronchitis can also be caused by things that irritate your airways, such as smoke.