Symptoms will vary somewhat depending on the underlying cause of the bronchitis. When the bronchitis is due to an infection the symptoms may include:
- A slight fever of 100 to 101°F with severe bronchitis. The fever may rise to 101 to 102°F and last three to five days even after antibiotics are started.
- A runny nose
- Aches in the back and muscles
- Coughing that starts out dry is often the first sign of acute bronchitis. Small amounts of white mucus may be coughed up if the bronchitis is viral. If the color of the mucus changes to green or yellow, it may be a sign that a bacterial infection has also set in. The cough is usually the last symptom to clear up and may last for weeks.
- Feeling tired
- Shortness of breath that can be triggered by inhaling cold, outdoor air or smelling strong odors. This happens because the inflamed bronchi may narrow for short periods of time, cutting down the amount of air that enters the lungs. Wheezing, especially after coughing, is common.
- Sore throat
Bronchitis does not usually lead to serious complications (e.g., acute respiratory failure or pneumonia) unless the patient has a chronic lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or asthma.
Causes and Risk Factors
An infection or irritating substances, gases or particles in the air can cause acute bronchitis. Smokers and people with chronic lung disease are more prone to repeated attacks of acute bronchitis. This is because the mucus in their airways doesn't drain well. Others at risk of getting acute bronchitis repeatedly are people with chronic sinus infections or allergies; children with enlarged tonsils and adenoids; and people who don't eat properly.