What is bronchitis?
When the linings in the airways of your lungs become irritated and inflamed, you have bronchitis. If you are suffering from this condition, you will cough a lot. Bronchitis can make it hard to breathe and cause a variety of other symptoms.
Is bronchitis contagious?
That depends on the kind of bronchitis you have: Chronic Bronchitis or Acute Bronchitis.
Chronic bronchitis is not contagious. Those with chronic bronchitis will see their airways inflamed for an extended period. It can last at least three months and frequently recurs over two years. It is a severe and chronic lung disease that needs constant monitoring. Your primary care doctor or a lung specialist is better equipped for the long term maintenance of your chronic bronchitis.
Acute bronchitis is contagious as it is usually caused by a flu virus or a bad cold. Acute bronchitis generally lasts for one to three weeks.
What are the symptoms of bronchitis?
The symptoms of acute bronchitis are often mistaken for other breathing and lung conditions. It may be, initially, hard to determine without visiting a doctor. Usually, it will start with cold symptoms, including sore throat, runny nose, and fatigue. The hallmark of bronchitis is a hacking cough lasting more than five days. Other symptoms can include:
- Phlegm that can be green, white, yellow, or clear.
- Soreness or tenderness of your chest when you cough
- Constant tiredness
- Wheezing or whistling when you breath
- A rattle feeling in your chest
- A lower fever at times, (but usually there is no fever.)
How do you treat acute bronchitis?
Unfortunately, antibiotics will not help with acute bronchitis as a virus is usually the cause behind it. Acute bronchitis will generally run its course, and the best way to treat it is to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluid. However, if your acute bronchitis is particularly bad, we may be able to prescribe some medications to help with symptoms. A pain reliever may help with aches and pains, and bronchodilators will help open your airways. We will not suggest cough suppressants unless if you are still coughing up mucus. If the mucus is still coming up when you cough, that means your airways are not cleared yet.
A humidifier or sitting in a steamy bathroom after a hot shower also may help relieve some of your symptoms.
When should I be concerned that my bronchitis has turned into pneumonia?
If your acute bronchitis is lasting more than three weeks or if you are beginning to cough up puss, you should immediately return to a doctor. Other signs that you are beginning to develop pneumonia include:
- A constant fever of 102 F or higher
- Difficulty breathing
- Shortness of breath throughout the day
- Shaking chills
- Unable to keep liquids down
Do I need an appointment to be treated for bronchitis at Columbia Urgent Care?
No appointment is ever needed to be seen by one of our doctors or access any of our services at our walk-in medical clinic. Come to any of our five locations during their business hours, and we will be able to diagnose and treat you for bronchitis. When you visit our center, please tell our front desk staff that you believe you may have acute bronchitis. We will likely give you a face mask while waiting for a doctor to prevent you from spreading it when you cough. Feel free to ask one also!