Bronchitis is a common lung infection that affects millions of Americans each year – and for nearly 9 million adults, the CDC¹ reports that a simple case of bronchitis turns into chronic bronchitis.

Most people wait until their bronchitis has become a serious problem before seeking treatment. However, waiting can be incredibly dangerous, as untreated bronchitis can turn into pneumonia or COPD. The only way to keep yourself healthy is to know what bronchitis looks like, how it’s treated, and what you can do to prevent it from worsening.

Early Warning Signs of Bronchitis

So many ailments and illnesses start out with the same symptom: a nagging cough. Understandably, this makes it difficult for many to determine if they’re dealing with the common cold or a more serious condition like bronchitis.

Bronchitis shares many symptoms of the common cold, but it’s important to note your symptoms when they begin. Catching bronchitis early is the only way to prevent it from worsening. Medicine Net² suggests looking for the following signs that can point to both acute and chronic bronchitis:

Coughing: Bronchitis brings a persistent cough that drags on day and night and makes performing simple tasks, like talking on the phone or getting a good night’s rest, next to impossible.

Shortness of Breath: Do you quickly get out of breath when climbing a set of stairs or walking around the grocery store? Shortness of breath is a common symptom.

Wheezing: Even without a stethoscope, you’ll hear the rattling or wheezing sound coming from your lungs while breathing. The sound is caused by the phlegm beginning to fill the bronchial tubes.

Low-Grade Fever: Bronchitis most commonly occurs when you’ve been exposed to a virus from the common cold or some type of bacteria, which has managed to reach your lungs. And the body responds to all infections like these with a fever.

Chest Discomfort: As the bronchial tubes become more inflamed, an uncomfortable feeling will develop in the chest that is a combination of pressure and tightness. It may hurt worse when a person has to breath in cold air.

How Is Bronchitis Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose bronchitis, a doctor will listen to a patient’s lungs with a stethoscope to check for any sounds of wheezing and phlegm. If these are present, the American Lung Association³ says the doctor will usually order an X-ray to see how much the condition has progressed. An examination of the phlegm under a microscope to check it for the presence of bacteria or viruses may also be done – you’ll just need to cough up some of the phlegm in your lungs into a cup, which is sent off to a laboratory.

Your doctor will be able to confirm whether or not you’re suffering from bronchitis either the same day of your visit or within two days. Because bronchitis is so common, it’s a condition that can be easily and quickly diagnosed.

How Is Bronchitis Treated?

Many cases of bronchitis can resolve on their own in about four weeks without any treatment. But this is only possible if you have a strong immune system that can fight the infection off. You may, however, need some over-the-counter cough syrup to help quiet your cough and loosen up the phlegm, or some common cold medication that helps you get the rest your body needs.

If your bronchitis is persistent and can’t be remedied with over-the-counter medications, you may have a compromised immune system. In these cases, you’ll want to see your doctor who may recommend a bronchodilator to open up your restricted airways.

When bronchitis progresses and begins to show signs of pneumonia, you’ll need to see your doctor in order to get antibiotics. Penicillin is a common prescription for this condition, but there are other options available. Your doctor will prescribe the right antibiotics to solve your bronchitis and potential complications should it progress into another illness.

Don’t Wait Until Bronchitis Worsens

Bronchitis is a common condition that affects millions of people each year – and you could easily contract this illness yourself. Though a mild case of bronchitis can usually heal on its own, a severe case is much more dire. If it isn’t treated in time, it can quickly get out of control and leave you with lifelong complications like COPD and a chronic cough.

To ensure this doesn’t happen to you, pay attention to your body and its symptoms. If you notice you’re beginning to develop the above-mentioned early symptoms of bronchitis, seek treatment and visit your doctor right away for a check-up.

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