That Lingering Cough Could Be Bronchitis

If you have a cold that lasts a long time or a persistent cough, you could have bronchitis and should see a doctor, a doctor says.

“We see a lot of cases of bronchitis at our immediate care centers,” said Dr. Khalilah Babino, an assistant professor of family Medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. Although most cases are caused by the common cold virus or influenza virus, bronchitis can lead to more serious conditions, such as pneumonia, which require medical treatment, she added.

Symptoms of bronchitis — a serious disorder of the lower respiratory tract — include fever, chills, chest congestion and productive cough that lasts more than five days, Babino said.

“The cough can last two to three weeks and could be an indicator of a more serious condition. If symptoms persist for more than seven to 10 days or symptoms start to get worse, see a healthcare provider,” Babino said in a Loyola news release.

Some people have more serious symptoms, such as chest pain, shortness of breath and wheezing, she noted.

“Many people assume when they are diagnosed with bronchitis that they need an antibiotic. However, bronchitis is commonly caused by a virus so antibiotics would not be helpful to patients,” Babino said.

Treatment includes rest, fluids, a humidifier, fever and pain relievers and cough medication.

“If there is shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing or wheezing, some patients may require breathing treatments with an inhaler or nebulizer. The patient may also need a short course of oral steroid medication. If breathing problems are severe, it’s best for the person to be evaluated in an emergency room,” Babino said.

More information
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about bronchitis.

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