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Bronchitis causes the bronchi to become irritated and inflamed, producing more mucus than usual.

Bronchitis causes the bronchi to become irritated and inflamed, producing more mucus than usual.
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Bronchitis

Bronchitis is the inflammation of the larger airways in your lungs, causing an ongoing cough. Bronchitis can be due to an infection, smoking or breathing in irritating substances.

Bronchitis can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or breathing in smoke or dust.

Acute bronchitis can last for weeks, whereas chronic bronchitis lasts for months and may come back each year.

Chronic bronchitis is usually related to smoking.

Most people with acute bronchitis will feel better with time and rest, with a number of treatments available to help ease the cough and other symptoms.

If you think you have bronchitis, your doctor can assess you and discuss treatment.

Bronchitis symptoms

Someone with bronchitis may have:

Check your symptoms with healthdirect’s Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

Who is at risk of developing bronchitis?

People at risk include:

  • the elderly
  • people breathing in irritating chemicals
  • smokers
  • those with a lung condition, such as asthma
  • people with poor immunity.

You can reduce your risk by hand washing, and if you smoke, cutting down or quitting. The annual flu vaccine is recommended for people with chronic bronchitis.

Is bronchitis contagious?

Mostly, bronchitis is caused by contagious viruses. These can be spread by air when someone coughs, or by touch after the virus is left on a surface.

Hand washing, covering your mouth when coughing and staying home while unwell can reduce the spread.

Do I need a chest X-ray?

An X-ray is often not necessary. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommend that chest X-rays for bronchitis are best avoided for simple cases. For more information, speak to your doctor or visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.

Bronchitis treatment

Most people with acute bronchitis will feel better with time and rest.

You can help ease the cough and other symptoms by:

  • inhaling steam or having a warm bath
  • avoiding cigarette smoke and other irritants
  • drinking plenty of fluids
  • simple pain relief medication, such as paracetamol (follow the directions on the label)
  • a teaspoon of honey at night, either by itself or in warm water.

Cough medicines are available, but they might or might not help.

If you are very unwell or not getting better, or if you get worse, see your doctor.

Last reviewed: August 2015

Recommended links

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Bronchitis - myDr.com.au

Bronchitis is a term that means inflammation of the bronchi (air passages) in the lungs. Bronchitis can be acute or chronic, and results in a cough that is productive of phlegm, or sputum.

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Chronic Bronchitis | myVMC

Chronic bronchitis is a disease of the lung

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Bronchitis in babies, children & teens | Raising Children Network

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the large airway passages that go to the lungs. Read about bronchitis symptoms and treatment for children and teenagers.

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Parenting and Child Health - Health Topics - Bronchitis ('chest infection')

Many children, when they get a cold, also develop a cough. The most common cause of coughing is asthma, but the cough may be due to bronchitis.

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Chest infections - Better Health Channel

A chest infection affects your lungs, either in the larger airways (bronchitis) or in the smaller air sacs (pneumonia).

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Emphysema | myVMC

Emphysema is type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or chronic bronchitis usually associated with smoking but is sometimes hereditary.

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Duro-Tuss Chesty Cough Liquid Forte | myVMC

Duro-Tuss Liquid Forte is used to treat productive coughs from bronchitis and other respiratory infections. It contains bromhexine and guaifenesin.

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DuroTuss Expectorant | myVMC

DuroTuss Expectorant is a cough syrup for relief of irritating productive coughs in bronchitis and respiratory tract infections.

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Chem mart Doxycycline Tablets | myVMC

Doxycycline is used to treat bacterial infections including chlamydia and bronchitis and prevent malaria. It is a broad spectrum antibiotic.

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GenRx Doxycycline Capsules | myVMC

Doxycycline is a broad spectrum antibiotic used to treat infections, including bronchitis, pneumonia and chlamydia, and to prevent malaria.

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