Symptoms of bronchitis

The main symptom of acute bronchitis is a hacking cough, which may bring up clear, yellow-grey or greenish mucus (phlegm). Other symptoms are similar to those of the common cold or sinusitis, and may include:

  • sore throat
  • headache
  • runny or blocked nose
  • aches and pains
  • tiredness

If you have acute bronchitis, your cough may last for several weeks after other symptoms have gone. You may also find that the continual coughing makes your chest and stomach muscles sore.

Some people may experience shortness of breath or wheezing, due to inflamed airways. However, this is more common with long-term (chronic) bronchitis.

When to see your GP

Most cases of acute bronchitis can be easilytreated 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
  • you have a constant fever of 38C (100.4F) or above, for more than three days this may be a sign of flu or a more serious condition, such as  pneumonia
  • you cough up mucus streaked with blood
  • you have an underlying heart or lung condition, such as  asthma,  heart failure or  emphysema
  • you're breathing rapidly (more than 30 breaths a minute) or develop  chest pains
  • you become drowsy or confused
  • you've had repeated episodes of bronchitis

Your GP may need to rule out other lung infections, such as pneumonia, which has symptoms similar to those of bronchitis. If your GP thinks you may have pneumonia, you'll probably need a chest  X-ray, and a sample of mucus may be taken for testing.

If your GP thinks you might have an underlying condition, they may also suggest that you have a lung function test. You'll be asked to take a deep breath and blow into a device called a spirometer, which measures the volume of air in your lungs. Decreased lung capacity can indicate an underlying health problem.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 30 Aug 2016