Bronchitis – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment


Bronchitis can be divided into the mostly harmless acute bronchitis and the more serious chronic bronchitis . While acute bronchitis is usually triggered by an infection in the respiratory tract, chronic bronchitis is usually caused by smoking or prolonged inhalation of pollutants.

What is bronchitis?

The term bronchitis comes from ancient Greek and means translated: bronche = throat, itis = inflammation ). In bronchitis, a distinction is made between acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis. If bronchitis is delayed and not properly cured, the risk of pneumonia should not be underestimated.


Causes of chronic bronchitis

The causes of chronic bronchitis are usually the inhalation of pollutants from the air, smokers are particularly at risk here. There is also a risk of this occurring in various professions, for example in mining from inhaling dust. Other causes are pollutants from the environment through environmental pollution, as well as frequent infections of the respiratory tract.

Causes of acute bronchitis

Causes of acute bronchitis are usually the infestation of viruses of various kinds, in very rare cases bacteria can also be a cause of acute bronchitis.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Acute bronchitis is often announced by an infection of the upper respiratory tract. The area around the mouth, nose and throat is particularly affected. Fever , chills and other flu – like symptoms occur at the onset of the disease . This is accompanied by a runny nose , sneezing, difficulty swallowing and a burning sensation in the throat.

Muscle and joint problems are typical of viral infections, and bone pain can also occur in isolated cases. After infection, the typical bronchitis symptoms are added to these symptoms, i.e. a sore throat and dry cough , which is accompanied by sputum over the course of the disease. The secretion may change in texture and color as the bronchitis progresses.

In the beginning it is whitish-slimy, in the later stages it often turns yellowish-greenish. Blood admixtures in the secretions indicate a serious illness that should be examined by a doctor. If there is a lot of phlegm, the breathing sounds change and are increasingly whistling or humming. The cough is usually rattling or rattling.

Bronchitis makes the bronchi significantly more sensitive to external stimuli as it progresses. This leads to an increase in very painful coughing, which often occurs in attacks. Regardless of the cough, pain behind the breastbone also occurs in the acute phase of the disease. If the course is severe, shortness of breath and weakness can also occur.


Course of the disease acute bronchitis

If there are no particular complications, acute bronchitis usually lasts no more than eight to ten days. No complications should occur here, especially in healthy people with a strong immune system. In the event of an unexpectedly longer course, you should always consult your family doctor.

Symptoms are in most cases: cold symptoms , hoarse voice , scratchy throat , increased discharge, difficult breathing , headache and body aches . Normally, after two to three days, there is a painful cough with whitish to yellowish, greenish sputum if the cause is bacterial . In addition, there is a fever of around 38 to 40 degrees and a burning sensation behind the breastbone.

Course of chronic bronchitis:

The course of chronic bronchitis is very different, what is particularly important here is how quickly the causative pollutants (smoking, toxic gases and fumes, dust) are found and how these are avoided accordingly. If you continue to be exposed to the pollutants, there is a high risk that your heart and lungs will be severely affected.


Acute bronchitis usually heals without consequences. In old people, smokers or patients with a reduced immune system, however, the disease can develop into chronic bronchitis; this can lead to pneumonia and other complications. In severe cases, chronic obstructive bronchitis develops, which is associated with inflammation, purulent sputum and shortness of breath.

In addition, spasm of the bronchi and bronchial obstruction, a pathological narrowing of the bronchi, can occur. If the course is severe, chronic symptoms such as coughing and sputum develop, which never completely subside. The complications increase with the course of the disease and are associated with a shortened life expectancy.

Bronchopneumonia, which can occur as a result of a weakened immune system , is less serious . Complications of such pneumonia include symptoms of fever and deterioration in general health, and difficulty breathing, which can cause cyanosis , tachycardia, and confusion . As a result of bronchopneumonia, lung abscesses can also develop, which contribute to the deterioration of the general condition. There are usually no serious complications associated with the treatment of bronchitis.

When should you go to the doctor?

As a rule, bronchitis heals within a few days or weeks and does not require a visit to the doctor. This is the case as long as the symptoms do not worsen, shortness of breath does not set in and the feeling of illness is limited.

However, if the bronchitis lasts longer than two weeks, a visit to the doctor is indicated. Investigate secondary infection or infection migrating to other parts of the respiratory system. The doctor should also be consulted if shortness of breath occurs. In such cases, chronic bronchitis with damage to the airways can occur. The same applies if you have a high fever.

Since a secondary infection of the bronchi with bacteria becomes more likely the longer the bronchitis persists, medical attention is necessary. Antibiotics must be used here to avoid further damage to the airways. A visit to the family doctor is usually sufficient.

Particular attention should be paid to young children. They are more prone to spasms caused by coughing, which impairs the development of the bronchi. You should go to the doctor if the child is visibly cramping, exhaling wheezing or developing a high fever.

Older people should not wait two weeks before going to the doctor. Your bronchi are usually weaker and therefore bronchitis can manifest itself more quickly.

Treatment & Therapy

Treatment of acute bronchitis:

Nose drops, inhalation, baths, drinking a lot, strengthening the general immune system, bed rest if necessary, painkillers if necessary should help here. In severe cases, a family doctor should also be consulted.

Treatment of chronic bronchitis:

Treatment is as for acute bronchitis . In addition, for example, if smoking is the cause, there is an absolute smoking ban. A lot of exercise in the fresh air is also helpful. In this case, regular inhalation over a longer period of time is also necessary. Especially in the case of chronic bronchitis, the treatment is also carried out by means of physiotherapy breathing exercises.

However, once the chronic inflammatory process of bronchitis has begun, it can hardly be completely cured. Since smoking is by far the most common cause of chronic bronchitis, the best prevention is not smoking.

Chronic bronchitis is often treated with endurance exercises such as cycling or walking on level ground, i.e. with moderate exertion.

In addition, in the case of chronic bronchitis, instructions on the use of medication are also required. Oxygen may be added here as a preventive measure. Chronic bronchitis also requires plenty of fluid intake, as this promotes the dissolution of mucus. The therapy of chronic bronchitis is often supported by the prescription of percussion massage.

Special drugs are administered here that widen the bronchi, as well as antibiotics . If the cause of chronic bronchitis is not smoking, it may be worth considering relocating to humid and salty areas (North Sea, Baltic Sea). The treatment of chronic bronchitis should always be accompanied by a doctor.

Outlook & Forecast

The prognosis for bronchitis is generally good for people with a healthy immune system. The disease is usually treated on an outpatient basis. With early medical care, the administration of medication quickly alleviates the symptoms. Within a few days, the state of health improves significantly. An existing cough heals more slowly, so that the patient is often only completely free of symptoms after 1-2 weeks.

If the bronchitis is delayed, the healing path will be longer. In addition, the risk of developing chronic diseases increases. Patients at risk include people with an existing lung disease, a weakened immune system or people of advanced age. If left untreated, pneumonia can become life-threatening and even fatal. In addition, if bronchitis is left untreated, there is a risk of bacterial infection. The secondary infection significantly worsens the general state of health and can provoke further complications.

Elderly people or people who are already ill have an overall increased risk of various complications from bronchitis and have to be prepared for a longer healing process. There is a risk of permanent tissue damage to the lungs or blockage of some areas of the lungs. This leads to respiratory impairments and the risk of mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders increases.


Follow-up examinations are usually not necessary for bronchitis. However, if symptoms of the disease such as breathing difficulties or a dry, dry cough are still present after a period of six weeks, it is advisable to consult your family doctor or a specialist. In this case, there is a risk of chronic bronchitis. In the case of older patients, those affected with a weakened immune system and COPD patients, a check-up is not always absolutely necessary, but it is often advisable.

In children, there are usually no complications. They heal quickly from bronchitis, so usually no follow-up care or medical examinations are necessary. For all those affected, general rest is the most important measure after bronchitis. Physical and mental overexertion should be avoided.

Depending on the severity of the condition and the general health of those affected, it is sometimes advisable to postpone stressful activities such as exams or travel. In addition, those affected should not expose themselves to strong temperature fluctuations.

In the weeks after the illness, care should also be taken to ensure that the humidity is high. Therefore, the living quarters should not be overheated. Since the immune system is weakened by bronchitis, the risk of contracting infections should be reduced, especially in the cold season.

You can do that yourself

Bronchitis can be treated very well at home. There are many home remedies that can be used to treat a severe cough. Physical rest is fundamentally important so that the body can adjust to the healing process. In addition, care should be taken to increase fluid intake , as increased perspiration occurs with accompanying fever.

A tea mixture of sage , thyme and buckhorn helps against the strong urge to cough – this acts as a natural cough suppressant. Thyme and sage are astringent and antibacterial in their effect. Sage can also be sucked in lozenges to relieve existing hoarseness. If there is an accompanying fever, it is beneficial to get through it in a controlled manner.

It is the body’s most powerful healing response. An antipyretic can be taken before going to bed. Caution is advised, especially with children, as there is a risk of night-time febrile seizures if there is a high fever. Otherwise, calf wraps or full-body cooling in the bath can be used to gently lower the temperature.

Homeopathy also offers several preparations for supportive treatment. These include Aconita, Belladonna or Nux Vomica for the first cough. Causticum is a natural cough suppressant. With a dry cough, Spongia, Drosera and Bryonia are recommended, Pulsatilla with a productive cough. If there is no improvement after three days, the fever is persistently high, pain or bloody sputum occurs, those affected should consult their family doctor .

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.