Acute Bronchitis: How Long Do Symptoms Last?

Doctor's View on How Long Bronchitis Symptoms May Last

What is bronchitis?

Bronchitis is a condition where there is inflammation of the bronchi, the air passages within the lungs. The inflammation that causes bronchitis comes mostly from viruses, but sometimes can be caused by bacteria or allergens. Depending on the length of time your symptoms occur, bronchitis can be characterized as acute bronchitis or chronic bronchitis.

Acute and chronic bronchitis share common symptoms of the following:

Episodes of bronchitis usually do not cause fever and if they do it is usually low grade.

What are the difference between acute and chronic bronchitis?

The difference between acute and chronic bronchitis is the length of time the symptoms last. In acute bronchitis, symptoms occur more than five days, and can last up to three weeks. In chronic bronchitis, symptoms last for at least three months of the year during two consecutive years.

If your cold symptoms and cough last more than three weeks, cause chest pain, shortness of breath, or fever, see your doctor immediately. More severe symptoms such as these may be a sign of pneumonia or other serious respiratory illness.


COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is the same as adult-onset asthma. See Answer

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Medically reviewed by James E. Gerace, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Pulmonary Disease


UpToDate. Acute bronchtitis in adults.

UpToDate. Patient information: Acute bronchitis in adults (Beyond the Basics).