How long can you expect to be sick with bronchitis? (2023)

The duration of bronchitis depends on several factors. Most people with acute (short-term) bronchitis have symptoms in two to eight weeks. However, chronic (long-term) bronchitis, which is common in people who smoke, can last much longer.

This article will review the types of bronchitis, its causes, and its duration.

How long can you expect to be sick with bronchitis? (1)

chronic vs acute bronchitis

There are two main types of bronchitis: acute and chronic. During bronchitis, the tubes that lead from the trachea to the lungs (calledbronchi) swell and produce a protective mucus that triggers a cough.

The most common and least serious type of bronchitis is acute bronchitis. An infection likecommon cold or flu triggers acute bronchitis. This infection can be a virus or (less often) bacteria or fungi. With acute bronchitis, sometimes called a cold, you can still be contagious.

Without complications, acute bronchitis lasts less than three weeks. You should be able to recover on your own without prescription drugs. Rest and over-the-counter medicines to treat coughs, loosen mucus, and relieve pain and fever should be enough to treat symptoms.

The second trigger for bronchitis is environmental and causes chronic bronchitis. Prolonged exposure to pollutants or tobacco smoke irritates the bronchial tubes and causes a buildup of mucus.

Chronic bronchitis is a type ofChronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a type of disease that makes breathing difficult. It lasts at least three months and returns year after year. You must receive long-term treatment for this.

symptoms of bronchitis

Although the causes of bronchitis are different, acute and chronic bronchitis have similar symptoms.

Acute bronchitis will begin.cold-like symptomsor respiratory infection, including:

  • A stuffy and runny nose
  • sneeze
  • Sore or scraped throat
  • Tos
  • Headache
  • Muscle pains
  • Decreased appetite

Persistent symptoms of acute and chronic bronchitis include:

  • Persistent tiredness, headaches and body aches
  • A cough that keeps you awake at night.
  • chest pain from coughing
  • sore throat from cough
  • low fever
  • Hissing, hissing, or wheezingwhile breathing
  • Chest tightness

Bronchitis x Pneumonia

How long does each one last?

chronic bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis lasts at least three months of the year and recurs every year for at least two years. It can be a persistent problem that lasts for the rest of your life.

A medical professional can help treat the symptoms of bronchitis.with inhalers, drugs and other therapies. Quitting smoking can also help improve the symptoms of chronic bronchitis.

Whilechronic bronchitis itself is not contagious, can cause frequent colds, flu, and other respiratory illnesses that can be spread to other people.

acute bronchitis

In general, you should feel better from your acute bronchitis within a week or two, although you may have a persistent cough and fatigue for three weeks or more.

(Video) How do you know if you have bronchitis?

The types of viruses and bacteria that cause bronchitis are usually in your system for two to six days before you start to experience cold symptoms.Once you start to feel bad, it will feel like you have a cold or flu that lasts from a few to 10 days. Other symptoms may go away, but you may develop a persistent cough for a few weeks.

Bronchitis, especially if it's viral, can be passed to other people just hours after coming into contact with it, long before you develop symptoms. You're going to becontagious through the illness phase of the cold or flu- at least a few days, maybe even a week.


A doctor will only prescribeantibiotics for bronchitisif they think bacteria is causing your symptoms and you are at high risk that the infection will not resolve on its own. This may apply to you if you are older, frail, or have other conditions that can make your bronchitis worse. Antibiotics will not cure your viral bronchitis faster.


Prolonged coughing and irritation from bronchitis can cause some complications. Prolonged or aggressive coughing fits can irritate or injure the tissues in the throat, causing bleeding and sores.

Irritation of the airways can allow bacteria to enter and take hold, creating a new "secondary" infection different from the one that initially caused the bronchitis.

Bronchitis can alsoturn into pneumonia, a more serious and life-threatening infection of the lungs. The lungs fill with fluid, making it difficult to breathe. You may also have a fever, chills, and chest pain.

You will need to see a doctor for your pneumonia. If aThe bacteria caused his pneumonia., antibiotics will likely be prescribed to treat it.viral pneumoniait usually goes away on its own in a few weeks. But it can be treated with antiviral drugs if it is severe or the patient is at risk of being hospitalized.

It can take a while to recover from pneumonia. Some feel better in a week or so. In others, the disease persists for a month or more.

When to see a doctor

Chronic bronchitis can get worse over time and therefore needs to be treated. You should see a doctor as soon as possible if you suspect you may have chronic bronchitis.

Most of the time, acute bronchitis should resolve on its own. But contact a medical professional if you have:

  • A temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Bloody mucus from a lot of coughing
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Symptoms that persist for more than three weeks
  • Bronchitis that goes away and comes back

If you think your bronchitis has become a secondary infection or has moved to your lungs and caused pneumonia, contact a doctor.


Acute bronchitis is usually caused by an infection. It usually starts to go away in a week or two, but you may have a cough for three weeks. Chronic bronchitis is caused by environmental irritants. It has a minimum duration of three months and is carried out annually. It is a long-term condition that needs ongoing treatment.

A word from Verywell

Chronic bronchitis is a lifelong condition, but you can manage it with the help of a health professional. If you have been diagnosed with chronic bronchitis, it is essential to maintain a relationship with your doctor and manage your condition properly.

Lifestyle changes can reduce the symptoms of chronic bronchitis and prevent them from getting worse. Seek help from a medical professional to quit smoking and work to reduce your exposure to other irritants. Physical activity can help strengthen your lungs, so ask about your options. You can prevent future infections by getting vaccinated against the flu and pneumonia.

frequent questions

  • How long does a bronchitis cough last?

    (Video) Acute Bronchitis - Causes, Symptoms, Treatments & More…

    A typical case of bronchitis caused by a viral or bacterial infection lasts between a week and 10 days. If your cough does not improve or worsens after 10 days, see your doctor. If the cough persists for more than three weeks, call your doctor.

  • How to know when bronchitis is improving?

    Bronchitis can make you miserable and unable to do much for a week or so. Coughing can keep you up at night and you can get tired quickly. You'll know you're turning a corner when your chest congestion lessens and you have more energy. Your cough will probably be more productive and may sound worse, but it will start to feel better.

  • How do you know if bronchitis is turning into pneumonia?

    Bronchitis can worsen and turn into pneumonia. Pneumonia is a serious condition in which the lungs fill with fluid and breathing becomes more difficult. Symptoms of pneumonia include:

    • Chest pain when breathing or coughing
    • Shaking chills
    • Diarrhea
    • Fever
    • nausea or vomiting
    • productive cough

    If you experience these symptoms, see your doctor.

8 fuentes

Verywell Health only uses high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts in our articles. read ourpublishing processto learn more about how we fact check and keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

  1. Medicina Johns Hopkins.acute bronchitis.

  2. Medline Plus.acute bronchitis.

  3. Medline Plus.chronic bronchitis.

  4. Medline Plus.common flu.

  5. Allan GM, Arroll B.Prevention and treatment of the common cold: understanding the evidence.CMJ. 2014;186(3):190-199. doi:10.1503/cmaj.121442

  6. Cleveland Clinic.Bronchitis.

  7. Smith SM, Fahey T, Smucny J, Becker LA.antibiotics for acute bronchitis.Cochrane Database System Review. 2017;6(6):CD000245. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD000245.pub4

  8. Medline Plus.Pneumonia.

(Video) Bronchitis or Pneumonia; How to Tell the Difference

How long can you expect to be sick with bronchitis? (2)

Byjennifer gales
Jennifer Welsh is a Connecticut-based science writer and editor with more than ten years of experience. She has worked and written for WIRED Science, The Scientist, Discover Magazine, LiveScience, and Business Insider.

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