What to Do When a Cold Becomes Bronchitis?

Medically Reviewed on 9/29/2020

Bronchitis or “chest cold” refers to the inflammation of the airways
Bronchitis or “chest cold” refers to the inflammation of the airways

If your cold progresses to become bronchitis, you must:

  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. If due to certain medical conditions such as kidney diseases your doctor has restricted your fluid intake, you may ask them of the number of fluids you can safely have.
  • Take adequate rest.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, as per the label instructions.
  • Take steam inhalation.
  • Take a warm shower.
  • Take non medicated lozenges to soothe the throat.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Wear a mask to protect yourself from pollution or cold air.
  • Take a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean meat.
  • Perform breathing exercises.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Have ginger tea and other herbal teas.
  • Gargle with salt and water.
  • Drink some honey in water.
  • Avoid being around second-hand smoke.
  • Use a humidifier.

If your symptoms do not get better or get worse, consult your doctor.

Seek immediate medical care if you experience any of the following:

What is bronchitis?

Bronchitis or “chest cold” refers to the inflammation of the airways (bronchial tubes) in the lungs. Air passes through the lungs within a network of tubules called bronchial tubes. Bronchitis is often associated with persistent, nagging coughs with mucus. The condition often starts as an infection of the nose, eyes, ears, or sinuses that later moves to the bronchi. 

Bronchitis can be acute or chronic:

  • Acute bronchitis: It is a short-term condition. It is usually caused by a viral infection. Smoking may initiate or worsen the symptoms. A bacterial infection may occasionally cause acute bronchitis. Acute bronchitis usually goes away in a week or two. The symptoms may at times last for three weeks.
  • Chronic bronchitisIt is less common compared with acute bronchitis. It is defined as cough productive of sputum, lasting for three months of the year for at least two consecutive years. It may block the airflow in the lungs and is classified as a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. Chronic bronchitis may begin as cough and inflammation caused by a respiratory infection or illness, exposure to tobacco smoke, or other irritants in the air. 


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How does a cold turn into bronchitis?

Common cold and bronchitis can be caused by the same viruses. The common cold is associated with symptoms in the nose, throat, and sinuses such as sneezing, stuffy or running nose, headache, and throat pain or irritation. When this infection travels down and affects the bronchial tubes, bronchitis occurs. Bronchitis may also be caused by a bacterial infection or irritation caused by cigarette smoke or air pollutants. 

The occurrence of bronchitis is often preceded by symptoms of the common cold. The condition further progresses to cause the following:

  • Persistent cough with mucus production
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever which is usually low grade
  • Wheezing (a high-pitched, coarse whistling sound when a person breathes)
  • Feeling sick or having a lack of energy
  • Chest discomfort or pain

Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, you must consult your healthcare provider right away if you experience any symptoms such as cough, altered taste or smell, shortness of breath, or fever.

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Medically Reviewed on 9/29/2020