Bronchitis occurs when the bronchial tubes (airways in the lungs) are irritated by a virus, bacteria, or allergen. This causes a cough that produces yellow or greenish mucus. 


Bronchitis often occurs with a cold or the flu virus. The airways become inflamed (red and swollen). There is a deep “hacking” cough from the extra mucus. Other symptoms may include:

  • Wheezing
  • Chest discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Mild fever

A second infection, this time due to bacteria, may then occur. And airways irritated by allergens or smoke are more likely to get infected.


The main treatment for bronchitis is easing symptoms. Avoiding smoke, allergens, and other things that trigger coughing can often help. If the infection is bacterial, you may be given antibiotics. During the illness, it's important to get plenty of sleep. To ease symptoms:

  • Don’t smoke, and avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Use a humidifier, or breathe in steam from a hot shower. This may help loosen mucus.
  • Drink a lot of water and juice. They can soothe the throat and may help thin mucus.
  • Sit up or use extra pillows when in bed to help lessen coughing and congestion.
  • Ask your licensed health care provider about using cough medicine, pain and fever medicine, or a decongestant.

Most cases of bronchitis are caused by a virus. Antibiotics do not treat viral illnesses, so they are typically not prescribed unless a bacterial infection is present.

Visit with a Virtual Care health care provider on the phone or online for help with your symptoms.