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HealthInfo Canterbury

What causes acute bronchitis and what are the symptoms?

Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a virus and follows a cold or flu. This is what people mean when they say a cold has "gone to their chest".

It will usually get better on its own in around one to three weeks, although you may have a cough for several weeks because your airways are irritated.

About 5% of cases of bronchitis turn into pneumonia, which is a more serious chest infection. This is more common in young children, older people, people with other health conditions, and smokers.

What are the symptoms of acute bronchitis?

The symptoms of bronchitis can be very similar to the symptoms of pneumonia, but they are usually not as bad. If you have bronchitis you will probably have:

You should see your GP if you:

On the next page: How is acute bronchitis treated?

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by community respiratory physician, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed April 2017.

See also:

Colds and sinusitis

Flu (influenza)


Page reference: 160116

Review key: HIABP-160111