Bronchitis, which is defined as “an infection of the main airways of the lungs (bronchi), causing them to become irritated and inflamed,” consists of two types: acute and chronic. Acute is caused by the same viruses that are responsible for colds and flus, while chronic typically occurs a result of cigarette smoking—although air pollution, dust and toxic gases can also contribute.
In addition to different causes, the healing times associated with each type also vary. Acute bronchitis can last for several weeks, but those who suffer from chronic bronchitis will experience symptoms for periods longer than three months at a time, that recur for at least two years. Despite how different the causes and recovery are between acute and chronic, the symptoms experienced can be quite similar. Here are six common symptoms of bronchitis to be mindful of…
A cough is the most common symptom of both acute and chronic bronchitis. With acute, it can persist for several weeks up to a few months and is often accompanied by a sore throat. How long the cough lasts entirely depends on how fast the bronchial tubes heal.
With chronic, the cough will often be unrelenting for longer than a three-month period of time. Over time, the forcefulness of the cough can lead to soreness of the chest and abdominal muscles. The cough may also worsen during certain times of year, particularly winter.
In most cases, bronchitis typically starts out as a dry cough, but it doesn’t take long—somewhere between a few hours and a few days—for the lungs to start over-producing mucus. A most unpleasant symptom of bronchitis, the mucus can take on several different colors, including clear, white, a yellowish-gray or green. In rare cases, the Mayo Clinic says it may be streaked with blood.
It is helpful to be aware of the frequency, color and amount of mucus being expelled from the body, as the doctor will often ask such questions to determine whether or not they can prescribe a medication.
It’s common to experience fatigue when the body is battling a virus, as in the case of bronchitis. This fatigue may cause feelings of mental and physical sluggishness, and is an indication of the body’s need for plenty of rest during the healing process.
Muscle weakness, or tiring easily after beginning an activity, may also occur, in addition to mild headaches.
4. Shortness of Breath
Due to the irritation and mucus buildup that occurs within the lungs, one’s ability to inhale fully and deeply may become limited, leading to a shortness of breath.
In addition, those suffering from bronchitis may also experience a wheezing sound when breathing. This is due to tightness in the chest muscles and inflammation of the airways. These symptoms may affect those dealing with prolonged acute bronchitis; however, they are most commonly associated with chronic cases.
In the case of acute bronchitis particularly, the virus that causes the infection of the lungs is often the same as what causes influenza. So it’s not uncommon to experience symptoms one would normally associate with having the flu—including a mild fever, muscle aches and body chills.
If the fever rises above 100.4 F and remains that high for more than three days, an appointment should be made with the doctor as soon as possible, as this may be an indication of a more serious illness.
6. Chest Discomfort
Acute bronchitis is commonly referred to as a chest cold due to its symptoms being concentrated in that area of the body, including pain and tightness. Chest pain is primarily due to persistent, forceful coughing, which causes muscle soreness.