Bronchitis: Symptoms and Treatment

A pharmacist explains how to identify and treat acute and chronic bronchitis.

A mature businessman with a severe coughing fit.

1. Relax the muscles in your neck and shoulders. Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet on the floor.

2. Breathe in (inhale) slowly through your nose for two counts.

3. Feel your belly get larger as you breathe in.

4. Pucker your lips as if you were going to whistle or blow out a candle.

5. Breathe out (exhale) slowly through your lips for four or more counts.

Be sure to exhale normally. Do not force air out. Do not hold your breath when you are doing pursed-lip breathing. Repeat these steps until your breathing improves.

Recommendations For People With Bronchitis

Quit smoking. Medications are available to help you quit smoking.

[See: Pharmacists' Top Recommended Smoking Cessation Aids.]

Many cases of acute bronchitis result from having a cold or flu. It's important to get a yearly flu vaccine. You should also be vaccinated against pneumonia.

Do not take over-the-counter cough suppressants without your doctor's permission.

If your doctor prescribed an inhaler, ask your pharmacist to demonstrate how it's used.

Contact your doctor if your cough worsens. Call your doctor immediately if you cough up blood or rust-colored or green phlegm.

Call 911 if you experience severe chest pain and/or are gasping for air.

Avoid lung irritants. Wear a mask when you are working with strong fumes like paint.

If possible, stay indoors when air pollution is rated high.

Use a humidifier. Warm, moist air helps relieve coughing. It also loosens mucus in your airways.

Drink plenty of fluids. Lung secretions will be thinners and easier to clear.

Don't brush off persistent coughing as harmless smoker's cough. Delaying treatment can result in serious lung problems and even death.

Wash your hands frequently to lower your risk of infection.

[See: Pharmacists' Top Recommended Antibacterial Soaps.]

Eat a healthy diet and be as physically active as you can.

Where can I find more information?

The American Lung Association provides useful and easy-to-understand information on bronchitis.

Note: This article was originally published on Nov. 13, 2013 on It has been edited and republished by U.S. News. The original version, with references, can be seen here.