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Bronchitis - Symptoms of bronchitis

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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The main symptom of bronchitis is a hacking cough. It is likely that your cough will bring up thick yellow-grey mucus, although this does not always happen.

Your cough may last for several weeks after other symptoms have gone, and you may find the continual coughing makes your chest and stomach muscles sore.

Other symptoms

Other symptoms of bronchitis may include:

  • a tight feeling in your chest
  • breathlessness
  • wheezing
  • sore throat
  • slight fever and chills
  • headaches
  • blocked nose and sinuses
  • aches and pains

Although unpleasant, these symptoms are usually not severe and you may not need to see your GP. However, the symptoms of bronchitis can be similar to those of pneumonia (an infection that causes inflammation in your lungs), so it is important to look out for any changes in your symptoms.

When to see your GP

See your GP as soon as possible if:

  • your cough is very severe or lasts longer than three weeks
  • you have a constant fever for more than three days
  • you cough up mucus streaked with blood
  • you develop rapid breathing (more than 30 breaths a minute) or chest pains
  • you become drowsy or confused
  • you have had repeated bouts of bronchitis
  • you have an underlying heart or lung condition, such as asthma, emphysema (damage to the small airways in your lungs), congestive heart failure (weakness in the heart that leads to fluid in your lungs) or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (long-term lung damage)

You should also contact your GP for advice if you have an underlying heart or lung condition that can make you more vulnerable to the effects of infection, such as asthma or heart failure.

Long-term (chronic) bronchitis

The symptoms of chronic bronchitis are often worse in the winter and it is common to have two or more flare-ups a year. A flare-up is when your symptoms are particularly bad.

If you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (chronic bronchitis combined with emphysema), you will be increasingly breathless when exercising or moving around.

Read more about the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Medical Review: April 18, 2012
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