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Can COVID-19 Turn Into Bronchitis?

When temperatures drop and cold and flu season begins, it’s common to see a rise in COVID-19 cases. The symptoms of COVID-19 – cough, fever, sore throat, body aches, fatigue, and the like – are similar to bronchitis, the flu, and many other upper respiratory illnesses. It can be extremely difficult to tell what you have just by how you feel.

If you have COVID-19, the same virus can also cause you to develop bronchitis. Like COVID, acute bronchitis can lead to serious health complications if left untreated. Anything that compromises your respiratory system is a risk you don’t want to take.

Continue reading to learn how COVID can turn into bronchitis, the symptoms of bronchitis, and when and where to go for testing and treatment.

Can COVID cause bronchitis?

Bronchitis is the medical term for inflammation of the cells lining the tubes (bronchi) that carry air to and from your lungs. Bronchitis is viral – not bacterial – and is often caused by the same respiratory viruses that cause the common cold or the flu.

However, the virus that causes COVID-19 (which is different than viruses that cause a cold or the flu) can also cause inflammation of the bronchi, making acute bronchitis a potential symptom of COVID-19 infection.

What does bronchitis feel like?

It can be difficult to distinguish the symptoms of bronchitis from a basic cold. The primary symptom is a deep cough that comes on quickly. It sometimes starts as a dry, hacking cough but usually begins producing mucus and sounds wetter. This cough can linger for weeks after your other symptoms are gone.

Other typical bronchitis symptoms will sound familiar: shortness of breath, nasal congestion, fever, headache, body aches (including chest pain), and more. Both COVID-19 and bronchitis affect the parts of your body that help you breathe, making it even more essential to know what’s causing your symptoms.

Is bronchitis contagious to others?

Bronchitis itself – the inflammation of your airways – is not contagious, but the viruses that can cause it are. Infected people pass along these viruses through airborne respiratory droplets when they talk, sneeze, or cough.

Shaking hands, hugging, kissing, touching shared surfaces, or having any sort of physical contact with an infected person puts you at risk. Even if the person doesn’t have bronchitis, you could still end up getting it. Young children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems are the most susceptible to bronchitis and other respiratory infections.

Bronchitis usually lasts 1-2 weeks. The cough can last a few weeks more, even after your symptoms clear up and you’re no longer contagious.

Should I go to urgent care for bronchitis?

Yes! After evaluating your symptoms, a clinician can make a diagnosis and provide a treatment plan. If necessary, your provider may order a chest X-ray to confirm the diagnosis.

While acute bronchitis usually goes away on its own with at-home treatment, the viral infection can evolve into a bacterial infection if excess mucus infects your bronchial tubes. This can progress to pneumonia if the infection makes it all the way to the air sacs in your lung.

Antibiotics will only be prescribed if it’s determined that you have a bacterial infection. As mentioned above, most cases of bronchitis are initially caused by a viral infection, so antibiotics will only be prescribed if it has turned into a bacterial infection.

How do I know if I have COVID or bronchitis?

You won’t be able to tell if COVID-19 or bronchitis are causing your symptoms without seeking medical care. In addition to being able to diagnose bronchitis, all vybe urgent care centers offer self-pay COVID-19 rapid tests, including rapid antigen and rapid RT-PCR. We also offer a non-rapid COVID-19 test that is typically covered by insurance.

Without prompt testing and treatment, COVID-19 can lead to severe health dangers like bronchitis, pneumonia, kidney failure, blood clots, heart attack, stroke, or even death. Getting tested for COVID-19 and following the recommended treatment plan of a medical professional is the best way to prevent further complications from COVID-19.

All vybe urgent care centers have licensed medical professionals with a wide range of healthcare knowledge who are ready to provide you with testing and treatment.