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.

Symptoms include:

  • 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.

Things you can do to help with bronchitis


  • 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

  • take painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen to help with pain and bring down a high temperature

  • 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

Things you can do to help with bronchitis


  • do not smoke

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

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.