Signs and Symptoms
The main symptom of acute bronchitis is cough that may bring up mucus, which can be clear, white, or yellow-green (Worrall 2008; A.D.A.M. 2012; Mayo Clinic 2011a). Bronchitis may also cause a sore throat, wheezing, shortness of breath, fatigue, and fever that is usually low-grade. Fever is higher and people feel sicker when they have pneumonia, a condition that sometimes may be difficult to distinguish from acute bronchitis (Gillissen 2006; A.D.A.M. 2012).
With acute bronchitis, cough persists for 5 days or more. During this period, the results of pulmonary (lung) function tests (PFTs) may be abnormal. About 40% of people with acute bronchitis have significant reductions in their forced expiratory volume (FEV; a measure of lung capacity and normal breathing) and approximately 50% experience the production of purulent (containing pus) sputum. This type of mucus, especially in previously healthy individuals, occurs from the shedding of damaged airway epithelium and cells producing inflammatory molecules (Wenzel 2006).