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How Do You Get Rid of Bronchitis?

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How Do You Get Rid of Bronchitis?

writtenByWritten by: Shannon Chapman
Shannon Chapman

Shannon Chapman

Shannon enjoys breaking down technical subjects and giving others the tools to make informed decisions. Her interests include behavioral economics, sustainable living, meditation, and healthy cooking.

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September 3, 2020 Read Time - 9 minutes

How Do You Get Rid of Bronchitis?

Most cases of bronchitis will go away on their own after a few days. The simplest treatment for bronchitis is simply to rest, drink water, and eat healthy meals. Bronchitis is usually caused by a viral infection however antibiotics may be prescribed in rare instances of a bacterial infection.

For cases of acute bronchitis, treatment involves removing the underlying causes such as smoking and environmental factors. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe an inhaler.

Continue reading to discover more about bronchitis and how you can get diagnosed online.

Read: Get Bronchitis Treatment Online

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What Is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is an infection of the lungs. When the main airways or bronchial tubes become inflamed due to an infection, the inner lining swells and produce extra mucus, triggering coughs as the body attempts to clear the passageways.

What causes bronchitis? Most cases of bronchitis come after a viral illness, like the flu, and clear up on their own after a few weeks. Some cases are more unique or are recurring, which require a different course of treatment. Read more below to learn what to do if you have bronchitis.

How Do I Tell If I Have Bronchitis

Bronchitis is most often caused by a viral illness, such as the common cold. On rare occasions, it can be caused by bacterial infections or by lung irritants such as chemical fumes or smoking. The symptoms may include:

  • Chest discomfort – You may feel pressure in your chest in general or in certain points as your body works to clear the mucus.
  • Cough – The cough can range in frequency and severity. Most likely the cough will also bring up green, yellow, clear or white mucus.
  • Shortness of breath – This is caused by the narrowing of the airways and feeling of tightness in your chest. Bronchitis can even cause a wheezing as you breathe.
  • Fatigue – As your body works to fight off the infection, you may feel extremely  tired at different points in the day.
  • Nasal Congestion – Your nasal passages may be similarly inflamed or irritated as your lungs, which results in a runny nose.
  • Sore throat – Because of frequent coughing and mucus, the throat can become irritated as well.
  • Low fever and chills – A fever is your body’s natural response to an infection as it activates the immune system. However, high and prolonged fever require immediate medical attention.

Bronchitis is contagious if caused by a viral illnesses or bacterial infection. Since the vast majority of cases are contagious, it is important to take necessary precautions from getting other sick. If the bronchitis is caused by environmental factors and not an infection, then the bronchitis is not contagious.

How Is Bronchitis Diagnosed

Bronchitis can be diagnosed by your primary care physician or any general practitioner based on a physical exam and hearing your symptoms. Most likely, they will focus on your cough asking:

  • How long have you had your cough?
  • Does it generate any mucus?
  • What color is the mucus?

During the physical exam, the doctor will listen to your lungs to hear for any blocked or narrowed passageways, which can produce a wheezing or whistling sound when you breathe.

Depending on the additional symptoms you have, the doctor may also do a series of other tests. This is to determine that your symptoms are not caused by any other lung infection or illness. Since bronchitis can result in shortness of breath and tightness in your chest, it may be important for your doctor to check for any other serious conditions. These tests include:

  • A chest x-ray – This will help identify if there is any fluid build-up in your lungs, which is an indication of pneumonia, or if your symptoms are caused by any other lung diseases, like tuberculosis.
  • Lung function test – The doctor will provide you a spirometer, which is a device to test for asthma or emphysema. You simply blow as much air as you can into the device for as long as possible and it compares your lung capacity to average healthy individuals for your age, height, and gender group.
  • Sensor test for oxygen levels in your blood – The sensor goes onto your toe or finger and quickly reads out the oxygen levels in your blood.
  • Mucus tests – This test can rule out if you may have whooping cough instead of bronchitis, also known as pertussis.
  • Blood tests – This will catch any other potential causes.

Read: Bronchitis vs Pneumonia

How to Treat Bronchitis

Many people just want to know how to get rid of bronchitis quickly or what the best medicine for bronchitis is. However, in most cases, bronchitis goes away on its own after a couple of days or weeks, with the most severe symptoms lessening after the first few days.

Some medical reports state that 85% of patients can and do recover without any specific treatment. Since the majority of cases are caused by viral infections, antibiotics for bronchitis are not needed. Thus, the treatment for bronchitis is simply rest, drink water, and eat healthy meals. If it is a rare case of bronchitis caused by bacteria, then a doctor can prescribe antibiotics.

The most likely choices for antibiotics are amoxicillin and doxycycline with erythromycin and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole. If you have asthma or allergies and contract bronchitis, a doctor may also prescribe an inhaler, which counteracts the narrowing of the airways and helps shortness of breath.

Talk to a doctor before using cough medicine. Cough medicine allows the body to be less irritated by mucus, but this inhibits the body from coughing the mucus and getting it out of your system. Over-the-counter pain medication such as aspirin, naproxen (Aleve), Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help with the pain and any feverish symptoms.

The treatment for bronchitis that is recurring is similar to acute cases. There is no cure for chronic bronchitis other than addressing the underlying causes, most commonly smoking and other environmental factors.

In severe cases, your doctor may prescribe a bronchodilator inhaler, which helps clear airways, or corticosteroids, which contain steroid hormones to decrease inflammation in the lungs. If damage to the lungs is too great, oxygen therapy may be necessary to regulate oxygen intake.

Home Remedies for Bronchitis

What helps with bronchitis naturally? The average person reports symptoms for 10 to 14 days and misses an average of 2 to 3 days of work. Since most cases of bronchitis are caused by viral illnesses that do not respond to antibiotics, here are some ways to lessen the symptoms as your body works to get better:

  • Sleep a lot – Rest allows the body to recuperate and ensure minimal exposure to irritants in the air. It is arguably the best home remedy for bronchitis.
  • Stay hydrated – Some doctors recommend as many as 12 glasses of water a day to help keep your immune system working and thin out the mucus.
  • Take hot showers –The steam can help loosen the mucus and clear the lungs. You can also use a humidifier.
  • Avoid dairy products – Dairy products can make mucus thicker. Contrary to popular belief, it does not make you produce more mucus.
  • Gargle warm saltwater – If you have a sore throat, gargling with warm salt water can help relieve pain associated with an inflamed throat. A recommended amount is 1/4 -1/2 teaspoon of salt for an 8-ounce glass of warm water.
  • Drink ginger, lemon, or licorice tea with honey – Ginger, lemon, and honey have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. There is some documented evidence to support that lemon can help reduce inflammation and improving blood vessel function. While not a cure-all, some studies have shown honey can treat infections and act as cough suppression. Similarly, licorice has some research to suggest it can decrease swelling, coughing, or mucus secretions.
  • Take oregano oil – Surprisingly, the same oregano oil to spice delicious meals can be helpful as a medicine. Taking a few drops by the mouth can be helpful with your cough.
  • Breathe in steam with eucalyptus oil – Eucalyptus oil can help loosen phlegm. You can add drops of the oil to boiling water and breathe in the steam. Note – Do not ingest unless recommended by your doctor and never give or apply to the skin of a child younger than 2 as it is toxic.

Read: Home Remedies for Bronchitis

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.


How Long Does Bronchitis Last?

How long does it take to get rid of bronchitis? Acute bronchitis usually forms three to four days following a viral illness, like a cold or flu. Sometimes, it may begin with a dry cough and then a cough with mucus after a few days. Other symptoms usually lessen within after the three to four days.

The cough, which is the most common and persistent symptom of Bronchitis, usually lasts for 2-3 weeks. However, 50% of patients report the cough lasting for more than 3 weeks and 25% of patients report it lasting more than 1 month.

Chronic bronchitis results in a similar cough with mucus that lasts for most days in a month, for three months or more, for two years consecutively. For those with chronic bronchitis, how long it lasts depends on working with a doctor on your treatment plan.

Since most cases of chronic bronchitis are caused by smoking or constant exposure to a harsh environment, removing the person from that environment can make it possible to prevent future flare-ups. How chronic bronchitis manifests itself all depends on the patient, the conditions, length of exposure and many other factors.

How to Prevent Bronchitis

While bronchitis is not completely preventable, there are some ways that lower the chances of contracting the disease:

  • Get an annual flu and pneumonia vaccine – Both of these vaccines can reduce the risk of contracting a viral infection, which is the most common cause of bronchitis. Since bronchitis caused by viral illnesses is also contagious, this prevents those around you from contracting it as well.
  • Wash your hands frequently – This reduces your exposure to contagious viruses or bacteria, especially during the flu season.
  • Avoid environmental irritants, such as cigarette smoke or chemical fumes – Wearing a mask can help protect your lungs and avoid particles that might induce bronchitis.

Should any of these symptoms continue or worsen make an appointment with your primary care physician or see an urgent care immediately.

Read More About Bronchitis


PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information. Bronchitis. Access on September 3, 2020. Acute Bronchitis. Accessed on September 3, 2020.

Cleveland Clinic. Bronchitis Home Remedies. Accessed on February 6, 2021.

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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