Bronchitis is inflammation of the airways in the lungs that is usually caused by an infection. It often gets better without treatment in around 3 weeks.
Some people have long-term inflammation of the airways in the lungs called chronic bronchitis. This is known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Check if you have bronchitis
Symptoms of bronchitis can be similar to a cold or flu.
- a cough – you may cough up clear, white, yellow or green mucus
- chest pain when coughing
- shortness of breath
- a sore throat
- a runny nose
- a high temperature
Things you can do to help with bronchitis
There are some things you can do to ease the symptoms of bronchitis and reduce the risk of spreading infections to other people.
get plenty of rest – try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people if you have a high temperature or do not feel well enough to do your normal activities
drink plenty of fluids
try adding honey to a warm drink to help soothe your throat (do not give honey to babies under 1)
cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze – put used tissues in the bin as quickly as possible
wash your hands regularly with water and soap
do not smoke
Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:
- you've had a cough for more than 3 weeks
- you cough up blood or blood-stained mucus
- you have chest pain that comes and goes, or when breathing or coughing
- you're over 65
- you're pregnant
- you have a long-term condition, such as diabetes, or a heart, lung or kidney condition
- you have a weakened immune system – for example, you have a condition that affects the immune system, or you're having chemotherapy
- you feel very unwell
Immediate action required: Call 999 if:
- you are struggling to breathe – you are choking, gasping and unable to speak
- you have pale, blue or blotchy skin, lips or tongue – on brown or black skin, this may be easier to see on the lips, tongue or gums, under the nails or around the eyes
- you suddenly feel confused – for example, you do not know where you are
- you're unable to wake your baby or they feel floppy
Treatments for bronchitis
Bronchitis usually clears up without treatment in around 3 weeks. See a GP if your symptoms last longer than 3 weeks.
You may need antibiotics if your bronchitis is caused by a bacterial infection.
Page last reviewed: 19 December 2022
Next review due: 19 December 2025