Viral Bronchitis - You Should Know That!


Bronchitis is inflammation of the bronchi, which make up the lower part of the airways. Those affected have the typical cold symptoms such as coughing with phlegm, fever, headache and aching limbs.

The bronchitis is caused by viruses in 90% of the cases, then one speaks of a viral bronchitis. But it can also be triggered by bacteria or other pathogens.

Viral bronchitis often resolves itself, but it should not be underestimated, as stubborn and untreated inflammation can lead to sometimes serious lung diseases.

Symptoms of viral bronchitis

Like all infectious inflammation of the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract, viral bronchitis is associated with typical cold and flu symptoms. These include fever, chills, sensitivity to cold, body aches, headaches, runny nose, cough and increased mucus formation. The mucus that can be coughed up is clear and see-through in most cases. If, in addition to the viral bronchitis, there is a second infection with bacteria, i.e. a so-called superinfection, the mucus is often purulent-yellow. With special forms of viral bronchitis, the symptoms are usually much more pronounced and can be dangerous.

The RSV infection (respiratory syncytial virus) is a special form. It usually occurs in infancy and childhood and is associated with very high fever and shortness of breath. The symptoms of viral bronchitis usually go away on their own, but can be associated with complications, especially in elderly, debilitated, or previously ill patients.

You can find more detailed information on this topic at: Symptoms of bronchitis

Is the increased mucus production in the foreground of your complaints without necessarily having the other symptoms mentioned above? Then you should definitely read the following page: Mucous bronchi - what's behind it and what is the treatment?

Course of the disease in viral bronchitis

The course of the disease and symptom constellations can take different forms in each person. In many cases, viral bronchitis can begin with mild symptoms such as sore throat, cough, runny nose, body aches and a slight rise in temperature.

As it progresses, the cough usually becomes heavier as thick mucus accumulates and irritates the mucous membranes. The body liquefies this mucus over time, whereupon the cough loosens and the mucus can be coughed up. Only when this has been done completely can the mucous membrane calm down, which also reduces the urge to cough.

Exhaustion can persist in the days following the illness. It is important to take up physical or sporting activity only a few days after the last symptoms so that there is no relapse.

Read more about this at: Symptoms of bronchitis

Viral bronchitis complications

In rare cases, complications and secondary diseases can occur in patients with a weak immune system or a poor immune system. This is particularly true of the elderly, heavy smokers, diabetics and patients with chronic diseases of the lungs (e.g. COPD) or the heart. Secondary diseases can be a sudden deterioration in lung function with shortness of breath, which can be life-threatening. However, as part of the virus infection, a second infection with bacteria can also occur, a so-called superinfection, which intensifies the existing symptoms and significantly prolongs the course of the disease.

In rare cases, the bronchitis may not heal, but persist for a longer period or forever. Then one speaks of chronic bronchitis. Read more about the causes, symptoms and therapy of this special form at: Chronic bronchitis

Duration of viral bronchitis

With adequate rest and bed rest, the duration of simple viral bronchitis is limited. A rule of thumb is that the viral infection comes for three days, stays for three days and goes for three days. A conventional infection should be over within these nine days. A slight runny nose and cough, as well as post-illness weakness, may persist in the days after. The exact duration of the illness depends on the particular pathogen and the state of the immune system. The seasonal flu associated with viral bronchitis can be more persistent. In the case of particularly long courses, a second bacterial infection (superinfection) must also be considered.

For more information, we recommend our website to: Duration of bronchitis

Treatment of viral bronchitis

Pure viral bronchitis rarely requires drug treatment. The primary therapy is to protect the body and support the immune system. In addition to bed rest, renouncing work and sport, soothing symptomatic therapies such as vitamin intake or inhalation can also be carried out. The cough serves to get rid of the pathogens and should therefore not be suppressed with drugs. However, drinking water and tea can help loosen mucus and make it easier to cough up. If the urge to cough and pain are unbearable, a doctor can also prescribe medication for symptomatic therapy.

In bacterial bronchitis, antibiotic therapy is very important compared to viral bronchitis. Bacterial bronchitis is characterized by a more severe course of the disease. If you have or could have bacterial bronchitis, we therefore recommend our website: Which antibiotics help with bronchitis?

This causes viral bronchitis

Viral bronchitis is caused by inflammation of the mucous membranes. It is basically comparable to inflammation of the nasal mucous membranes or the throat and arises in the same way. The virus is transmitted via the so-called "droplet infection". Tiny drops with high numbers of pathogens get from an already ill person to the mucous membranes of the other person. The transmission can take place over short distances through the air, by shaking hands, kisses and other contact with the mucous membrane. By sneezing and coughing, the viruses are distributed particularly quickly and widely in the air and can infect people several meters away.

In addition to the transmission of pathogens, other contagion factors must be taken into account. The body's immune system can fight the majority of viruses and prevent inflammation. Particularly aggressive viruses, high levels of pathogens or weaknesses in the immune system therefore favor viral bronchitis. The cold in winter especially affects the immune system, which is why colds and bronchitis can occur more frequently.

How contagious is viral bronchitis?

Viral bronchitis is principally contagious. The most important source of infection is the hands. During one's own illness or during flu times, particular emphasis must be placed on hand hygiene. Sneezing and coughing as well as contact with the mucous membrane, e.g. kissing are potential sources of infection.

For your own protection and to protect the environment, you should be careful with sneezing, your own handkerchiefs and other excretory products in order to prevent spreading. Regular hand washing and hand disinfection in public facilities are the most important measures in the prevention of infectious diseases.

The degree of one's own infectivity depends on the severity of the symptoms. The time when the cold symptoms are strongest, the contagion potential is greatest.

Read more on this topic at: How contagious is bronchitis?

Spectrum of pathogens in bronchitis

Since 90% of bronchitis is almost always caused by viruses, it is often referred to as viral bronchitis. The most common pathogens are influenza viruses, which trigger a typical flu, but also so-called parainfluenza viruses, rhino or adenoviruses.

Bronchitis is much less often caused by bacteria and very rarely by fungi. In most cases, those affected by non-viral bronchitis are patients with a poor immune system and a weak immune system. If viral bronchitis is present, however, the disease can lead to a further infection with bacteria or fungi. Then one speaks of a superinfection.

Diagnosis of viral bronchitis

The diagnosis of viral bronchitis is in most cases limited to a questioning of the current symptoms and a brief physical examination. In addition to the classic cold symptoms, there are also typical respiratory problems.
With the help of a stethoscope, the attending physician can then listen to the lungs, and certain breathing sounds confirm the suspicion of viral bronchitis. A kind of whistling, a so-called "wheezing", can often be heard without a stethoscope. Listening with a stethoscope can rule out dangerous pneumonia, which is often noticeable through so-called rattling noises.

In diagnostics it is important to distinguish it from bacterial bronchitis. This is often more persistent and requires another treatment, possibly antibiotic.
A yellowish-green color of the mucus suggests a bacterial disease. A particularly high fever, severe cough and a long period of illness also suggest a potential bacterial infection. If necessary, a blood test or a microscopic examination of the mucus must be used to determine a precise pathogen so that the therapy can be targeted.

This is how viral bronchitis differs from bacterial bronchitis

Viral bronchitis can often be difficult to distinguish from bacterial bronchitis. Viral bronchitis is much more common and overall represents the more harmless clinical picture. However, the transition to bacterial bronchitis can be fluid. Particularly in the case of particularly young or particularly old sufferers, an existing viral bronchitis can have a secondary bacterial function, so-called “bacterial superinfection”. The duration and severity of the illness increase. In contrast to viral bronchitis, bacterial infections are associated with greatly increased temperatures of up to 41 ° C. The mucus in the airways can turn yellow-green. Bacterial pneumonia must also be clarified, as it can be a dangerous complication of bacterial bronchitis.

When listening with a stethoscope, the attending physician can often hear rattling noises that indicate involvement of the lungs. If anything is unclear, a blood test should be carried out, with which a suspicion of bacterial involvement can be confirmed. Differentiating between viral and bacterial bronchitis poses a particular challenge because bacterial infections, which are much rarer, can be complex and, in contrast to viral bronchitis, require antibiotic treatment.

Antibiotic therapy is very important for bacterial bronchitis. If you have bacterial bronchitis, we recommend our website: Which antibiotics help with bronchitis?