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Bronchitis - What will happen to me?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Bronchitis usually gets better on its own. But if you have a very bad cough with other symptoms like a high fever, you should see your doctor.

Your cough should clear up in about seven to 10 days.[2] But some people find it lasts longer. In one study, half the people had a cough that lasted for up to three weeks.[8] One-quarter had a cough for more than a month.[8]

It's a good idea to see a doctor if you have a cough that lasts for more than two weeks, or if you're worried about your symptoms.

We're not sure how often acute bronchitis leads to more serious lung diseases, such as chronic bronchitis or pneumonia.

  • One large study of people who went to their doctors with coughs found that, within a month, one-fifth of people had gone back to their doctor with the same symptoms.[7]

  • Another study found that one-third of adults with acute bronchitis went on to get symptoms of chronic bronchitis or asthma within three years.[9] But we can't be sure if the original attack of bronchitis caused these conditions, or whether some people are just prone to lung disease.

Some other conditions can be made worse by bronchitis. For example, if you have asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or heart disease, your condition can be made worse by bronchitis. You should see your doctor if your underlying condition becomes worse. Your doctor may need to adjust your usual treatment to help.

Glossary

asthma

Asthma is a disease of the lungs. It makes you wheeze, cough and feel short of breath. Asthma attacks are caused by inflammation and narrowing of your airways, which makes it hard for air to pass in and out of your lungs.

chronic bronchitis

Your doctor may say that you have chronic bronchitis if you have a cough that brings up phlegm, if it lasts for three months or more, and you have had it twice in two years. Smoking is a common cause of chronic bronchitis.

chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an illness that causes coughing and difficulty breathing. Most of the people who get it have smoked for a long time. COPD can include both emphysema, which is the breakdown of air sacs (alveoli) in your lungs, and chronic bronchitis, which is a recurrent, long-lasting cough that brings up phlegm.

heart disease

You get heart disease when your heart isn't able to pump blood as well as it should. This can happen for a variety of reasons.

pneumonia

Pneumonia is an infection in your lungs. Anything that causes infections (bacteria, viruses or fungi, for example) can give you pneumonia.

For more terms related to Bronchitis

Citations

For references related to Bronchitis click here.
Last Updated: October 22, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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