How to Manage Your Chronic Bronchitis Symptoms

Dec 11, 2023
 How to Manage Your Chronic Bronchitis Symptoms
Coughs often come and go. But what if they become chronic? If you have a stubborn cough that seems to last for months or even years, it could be chronic bronchitis. See why you shouldn’t ignore this symptom and what can help get it under control.


If you’ve ever had a chest cold, you may have experienced acute bronchitis. This type of cough usually develops from viral infections, like colds or flu. As a result, they typically clear up within a few days or weeks.


Chronic bronchitis shares some similarities with this acute condition. However, it’s far more serious and typically develops over years — and it never completely goes away. Instead, it’s included under a group of lung diseases: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 

Unlike acute bronchitis symptoms, the most common cause of this chronic lung disease involves smoking and tobacco use, though viral infections can worsen your symptoms. 

Other causes of chronic bronchitis include:

  • Long-term uncontrolled asthma
  • Frequent respiratory infections in childhood
  • Heavy exposure to pollution, chemicals, dust, and other irritants

It’s tempting to try to ignore a persistent cough, especially when symptoms seem to improve periodically. However, chronic bronchitis can worsen with time and requires proper management to keep symptoms controlled. 

If you have a stubborn cough, the Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine team can help. Our independent pulmonary and sleep medicine practice in Algonquin, Illinois, offers comprehensive testing and treatment so you can get the personalized care you need.

Here’s how to spot the signs of chronic bronchitis and how we can help manage your symptoms.

Signs of chronic bronchitis

One of the most obvious signs of chronic bronchitis involves a cough. However, not all coughs are created equally. In this situation, it usually causes expectoration — or coughing up mucus. You may also have heard this symptom referred to as “a smoker’s cough.”

Additional signs of chronic bronchitis include:

  • A barking or hacking cough
  • Chest discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing or crackling while breathing
  • Coughed-up mucus that appears white, yellow, or green
  • Frequent or severe respiratory infections
  • Fatigue or fever
  • Swelling in the legs or ankles
  • Bluish lips, fingernails, or skin from low oxygen
  • Fast heart rate

As chronic bronchitis worsens, symptoms can also become more frequent and severe.

Diagnosing and managing chronic bronchitis

Since chronic bronchitis shares symptoms with other respiratory diseases, our team performs pulmonary function tests to diagnose your condition. In some cases, we also order additional diagnostic assessments, like blood tests, chest X-rays, or CT scans.

Once we understand your condition, we can outline the most effective management strategy. That often involves a combination of approaches, including:

Smoking cessation

Quitting your tobacco habit is the first line of defense. Not only does it help you breathe easier, but it also keeps your condition from worsening. 

Our team can point you to the tools and resources you need to quit once and for all.


A vaccine may not be a treatment in and of itself, but it can lower your risk of getting an illness that worsens chronic bronchitis symptoms. 

We can offer personalized guidance on which infectious diseases to vaccinate against, like pneumococcal disease, the flu, and COVID-19.


We use a variety of medications to treat chronic bronchitis, depending on your symptoms and their severity. These prescriptions range from bronchodilators designed to open the airways to corticosteroids that reduce inflammation.

If you’re susceptible to frequent respiratory infections, we could also include antibiotics in your management strategy.

Pulmonary rehabilitation

This program teaches you strategies and exercises to help you breathe better and improve your quality of life at the same time.

Oxygen therapy

Chronic bronchitis can prevent you from getting enough oxygen. If you have severe symptoms, oxygen therapy can provide additional air when you need it.

Chronic bronchitis may never go away, but the right management strategy can significantly improve your symptoms. The sooner you seek expert care, the greater the chances of keeping your condition from worsening.

Do you have chronic bronchitis? Don’t wait to schedule a consultation with our experts at Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine by calling 815-584-0976 today or requesting your appointment online.