One of the most common complaints that brings patients to the urgent care is that nagging cough and chest congestion. But when is it just a bad cold and when is it something worse like a bad case of bronchitis? How can you tell if you need to tough it out or get to the doctor for that prescription of antibiotics? Will antibiotics even help?
Here are some basics to help you better understand what bronchitis is and how your practitioner may go about diagnosing and treating you.
What is bronchitis?
Technically, bronchitis is a generic term used to describe any group of symptoms that that result in the inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes. In many cases, you end up with a bad cough and producing mucous. There are two main types of bronchitis; Acute Bronchitis (this is the most common) – that yearly bug you get often during the winter time and Chronic Bronchitis (like COPD) or other lung diseases that folks have, often as they get older.
What are the symptoms?
- Cough (may last for weeks)
- Productive cough (mucous)- usually clear to yellowing-green, rarely has blood
- Shortness of breath
- Mild fever/chills
- Chest discomfort- usually from coughing
How do I tell if this is bronchitis or a cold?
Sometimes you can’t. The symptoms can be very similar. The main difference is that usually cold symptoms are not as severe and include a runny nose, sore throat and are in the upper respiratory. Bronchitis tends to manifest in the chest or lower respiratory.
Both however, are viral. And the important thing to remember is that it’s NOT uncommon that what may have started as a cold, can progress into bronchitis – OR – that someone could have bronchitis and “catch” a cold at the same time simply because their immune system is weakened.