What is it?

  • Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes.
  • When the lining of these tubes becomes inflamed, the cells make more mucus. This in turn triggers a cough.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Cough – This is frequently very harsh and dry without producing much sputum. Sometimes the cough brings up thick yellow or green sputum first thing in the morning. This cough can keep you (and your roommate) awake at night. It sometimes comes in little episodes or “fits”.
  • Sore Throat
  • Congestion
  • Shortness of breath and/or wheezing
  • Pain under the breastbone – This is particularly during a deep breath or cough.
  • Fever and chills – Your temp may go up to 101


  • Virus – This is the most common cause of bronchitis. Antibiotics will not be effective for this form of bronchitis.
  • Bacteria – This is much less common and is often associated with cigarette smoking.
  • Irritants – This can be from cigarette smoke (primary or secondary smoke), chemical fumes or allergens. Bronchitis from these sources over a prolonged period of time may become chronic.


  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink extra fluids – this would be 8 to 10 glasses per day. This helps to thin out the secretions so they can get out more easily.
  • Inhale steam – this helps to loosen the mucus.
  • Avoid smoke – the smoke will dry the mucus out, making it more difficult to cough it out.
  • Prescription medications may be ordered
    • An inhaler may be prescribed to help relieve the cough.
    • Cough syrup with Codeine can sometimes be used at bedtime so you can sleep better.
    • Prescriptive cough capsules are sometimes used.
    • Sometimes steroids such as Prednisone are used.
    • If your provider thinks you have one of the rarer bacterial forms, you may be given an antibiotic.
  • Over-the-counter medicines
    • Cough syrup such as Robitussin can be helpful
    • Mucinex is a medication that can be used to break up the mucus
    • Pain relievers such as Tylenol or Advil can be used to decrease you discomfort.

When to seek medical care

  • If you have other medical problems, such as asthma, diabetes or other conditions that weaken your immune system.
  • If your cough is not improving in 1 to 2 weeks or keeps you awake at night. Or if the cough last > 6 weeks.
  • If your fever is not improving after 3 days or is > 101.
  • If you have trouble breathing, besides having a stuffy nose.
  • If your symptoms are getting worse after 7 to 10 days.