Do You Have Viral Bronchitis? Recognizing the Signs & Symptoms

Do You Have Viral Bronchitis? Recognizing the Signs & Symptoms

If you're feeling a little under the weather and can't seem to shake your cough and cold, you may be suffering from a case of viral bronchitis. While it's not the most pleasant thing to experience, it is treatable if recognized quickly. For instance, are you familiar with the signs and symptoms of viral bronchitis? If not, that's why we're here. In this article, let's break it down together so you can get back to feeling healthy in no time. Viral bronchitis is an inflammation of the tubes (or bronchi) that carry air to and from your lungs. It can occur at any age and typically causes coughing, fever, chills, sore throat, poor appetite, and dehydration. It often follows a common cold or respiratory infection.

Identifying Viral Bronchitis: Signs & Symptoms

Are you coughing, sneezing, and feeling feverish lately? It’s possible you may have viral bronchitis. It’s a condition that is becoming increasingly common due to its strong links with cold and flu viruses, and it affects both adults and children.

The most common symptoms of viral bronchitis are:

  • Coughing that lasts for at least 20 days
  • Low-grade fever (102 degrees Fahrenheit or less)
  • Wheezing, chest congestion, and shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Hoarseness in the voice
  • Poor appetite and dehydration

Children are more likely to contract viral bronchitis than adults—especially young children whose immune systems are still developing. If you or your child experience any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention right away.

Causes of Viral Bronchitis:

Viral bronchitis is a contagious respiratory illness caused by various types of viruses. It is the leading cause of cough, cold, and fever during the winter season. In some cases, it can also be caused by bacteria.

The most common causes of viral bronchitis include:

  • Influenza virus (flu)
  • Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  • Parainfluenza virus
  • Adenovirus
  • Rhinovirus
  • Coronavirus (COVID 19)

In addition to these viruses, other risk factors for viral bronchitis include poor nutrition, weakened immunity due to stress or medical conditions, and dehydration. Poor appetite and dehydration can worsen the symptoms of viral bronchitis.

Diagnostic Tests for Viral Bronchitis

If you think you may have viral bronchitis, there are a few tests that can confirm the diagnosis. The most commonly used tests to detect it are chest X-rays and scans, sputum culture and blood tests.

Chest X-ray and scan

X-rays can be used to detect inflammation in the lungs that may be caused by the virus. Scans can also be useful in detecting any other underlying causes like pneumonia.

Sputum Culture

This is a test done when mucus is coughed up from your lungs. It is tested to find out which bacteria or virus could be causing your symptoms.

Blood Tests

These tests help rule out other possible illnesses like pneumonia or influenza that could have similar symptoms. They measure inflammation markers in your body, like white blood cells and C-reactive proteins, as well as antibodies specific to the virus that caused your illness.

If your doctor suspects viral bronchitis, they'll often order one or more of these diagnostic test to get a proper diagnosis and confirm the cause of your symptoms.

Common Complications of Viral Bronchitis

If you're feeling sick and you think that viral bronchitis might be the cause, it's important to know about the potential complications. One of the most common is chest discomfort and soreness, usually felt in the rib cage when breathing. This can range from a mild ache to severe pain for some people.

Sometimes, coughs associated with viral bronchitis can produce sputum that has streaks of blood. While this sounds scary, it doesn't necessarily mean anything dangerous is happening—it's more likely that your lungs are just irritated from coughing so hard. However, if your sputum constantly has blood in it, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Other symptoms you may experience include:

  • Headache
  • Poor appetite
  • Hernia
  • Dehydration
  • Lung damage

The best way to prevent any potential complications of viral bronchitis is to identify it and get treatment as soon as possible. Pay attention to your body and don't underestimate the severity of cold or ‘flu-like’ symptoms—if they persist beyond a week or two, talk to a doctor about whether viral bronchitis may be the cause.

Treating Viral Bronchitis at Home

Viral bronchitis is usually self-limiting and doesn’t require any medical intervention. Treatment usually involves simple home remedies that can help you recover faster and easily.

Get Rest:

Make sure to get adequate rest. During the period of infection, your body needs time to recuperate as much as possible and having adequate rest will speed up the process. Make sure to avoid physical exertion or any strenuous activity that may worsen the symptoms.

Stay Hydrated:

It is important to stay hydrated when suffering from a cough, cold, or fever caused by viral bronchitis. Increasing fluid intake helps reduce the symptoms and allow your body to fight off the virus more effectively. It’s also a good idea to increase your intake of vitamin C as it is known for its anti-viral properties.

Clear Your Airways:

If you are dealing with a stuffy nose or blocked airways, you can use saline water or decongestant medications to clear them up and allow you take deeper breaths freely. If you don’t respond well to over-the-counter medications, you should consult your doctor for further instruction on how to safely treat it without aggravating your condition further.

When to See a Doctor for Viral Bronchitis

It’s important to consult a doctor if you have any of the symptoms described above. Viral bronchitis is a totally curable condition, but it’s important to see a doctor right away to make sure the virus is treated correctly and promptly.

  • Additionally, there are some signs that should trigger you to head straight to the hospital
  • Shortness of breath or having difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • A very high fever (over 102°F) that won't go down with over-the-counter medications
  • A prolonged cough (lasting 2 weeks or more) with little yellow or green mucus
  • Poor appetite and dehydration

Even if your shortness of breath, chest pain, or fever doesn't seem severe enough for a hospital visit, it's still wise to schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible so that you can start treatment for viral bronchitis.


Being aware of the signs and symptoms of viral bronchitis can help you correctly diagnose and manage this condition so that it doesn't become a more serious issue. If you have experienced any of the listed signs, having a proper diagnosis of the condition is essential.

Your doctor can determine the correct treatment and medication to help you manage the condition. It's also important to stay hydrated, eat well, and get enough rest while you're recovering to try and manage the symptoms. By following these tips and consulting a doctor if needed, managing viral bronchitis should be possible.