Understanding Bronchitis -- Symptoms

Last Editorial Review: 5/19/2011

What Are the Symptoms of Bronchitis?

The symptoms for acute bronchitis are:

  • Hacking cough.
  • Yellow, white, or green phlegm, usually appearing 24 to 48 hours after a cough.
  • Fever, chills.
  • Soreness and tightness in chest.
  • Some pain below breastbone during deep breathing
  • Some shortness of breath

The symptoms for chronic bronchitis are:

  • Persistent cough producing yellow, white, or green phlegm (for at least three months of the year, and for more than two consecutive years).
  • Sometimes wheezing, sometimes breathlessness.

Call Your Doctor About Bronchitis If:

  • Your cough is so persistent or severe that it interferes with sleep or daily activities or leads to persistent chest pain; you could be damaging sensitive air sacs in your lungs.
  • Your symptoms last more than a week, and your mucus becomes darker and thicker, increases in volume, or turns bloody.
  • You display symptoms of acute bronchitis and have chronic lung or heart problems, or are infected with the virus that causes AIDS; respiratory infections can leave you vulnerable to more serious lung diseases, such as pneumonia.
  • You have great difficulty breathing. This symptom, sometimes mistakenly associated with bronchitis, could signal asthma, emphysema, tuberculosis, heart disease, a serious allergic reaction, or cancer.

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SOURCES: Brunton, S.; Carmichael, B.; Colgan, R.; Feeney, A.; Fendrick, A.; Quintiliani, R.; Scott, G.; "Acute exacerbation of chronic bronchitis: a primary care consensus guideline." American Journal of Managed Care, October 2004; vol.10(10); pp 689-696. Smucny, J.; Fahey, T.; Becker, L.; Glazier, R.; "Antibiotics for acute bronchitis," Cochrane Database System Reviews, October 2004. vol. 18;(4); pp CD000245. Martinez, F.; "Acute bronchitis: state of the art diagnosis and therapy," Spring 2004, vol. 30; pp 55-69. Steinman, M.; Sauaia, A.; Maselli, J.; Houck, P.: Gonzolas, R.; "Office evaluation and treatment of elderly patients with acute bronchitis," American Journal of Geriatric Society, June 2004, vol. 52; pp 875-879. ERS Task Force, "The diagnosis and management of chronic cough," European Respiratory Journal, September 2004; vol. 24(3); pp 481-492.

Reviewed by Jonathan L Gelfand, MD on October 25, 2010
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