How to Prevent Bronchitis

Three Methods:Avoiding Contagious TransmissionMaking Lifestyle ChangesWatching for Symptoms

Bronchitis is a disease that occurs in your respiratory tract. Your respiratory tract is the passage that runs through your mouth, nose, throat, and lungs and is what allows you to breathe. While bronchitis is generally not considered a life-threatening disease, it can cause discomfort and result in a nasty, wet cough. Fortunately, there are strategies you can use to prevent bronchitis and, at the very least, to recognize the symptoms so that you can catch it early.

Method 1
Avoiding Contagious Transmission

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    Stay away from people with contagious diseases.[1] This might seem obvious, but you would be surprised by how challenging it can be. From a coworker with a cold to your child’s friend with the flu, you are constantly exposed to people who can get you sick. When you know someone is sick, try to avoid being near them. If you do have to be near them, wash your hands when they leave and avoid sharing anything.
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    Maintain your personal hygiene. This mostly involves washing your hands anytime you are exposed to something that could get your sick. When you wash your hands, make sure you wash them with warm water and soap. Occasions where you should wash your hands include:[2]
    • Going to the bathroom
    • Riding public transportation
    • Being around someone who is sick
    • Handling raw meat
    • Anytime you sneeze or cough
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    Use hand sanitizer if a sink is not available.[3] Some work environments such as hospitals or doctors' offices have sinks readily available for easy and regular hand washing. However, if this is not the case at your job (or in your life), another option is to carry with you a small bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer. You can then use it anytime you are touching public surfaces, or anytime you are around someone with a cold or flu.
    • Also avoid touching your face, especially when your hands are not clean.[4]

Method 2
Making Lifestyle Changes

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    Quit smoking.[5] Studies show that people who smoke cigarettes or are exposed to a lot of secondhand smoke are much more likely to develop chronic bronchitis.[6] Because of this, it is important that you quit smoking or avoid second-hand smoke if you are concerned about getting bronchitis. Substances in the cigarettes cause your respiratory tract to become inflamed, which makes you much more prone to getting a bacterial or viral infection.
    • Smoking leads to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which can make you more prone to infections like bronchitis.
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    Limit your exposure to things that can irritate your lungs. Dust and other particles, like bleach, asbestos, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, floating around in the air can really irritate the lining of your throat and respiratory tract.[7] When your respiratory tract becomes irritated, it will also become inflamed which greatly increases your chances of developing bronchitis. If you work at a job where you are exposed to airborne particles a lot, you should wear a face mask that covers your mouth and nose so you aren’t breathing those particles in all day.[8]
    • You should also always shower after work so that you wash off any extra particles that may have landed on you during the day so that your house and bed don't get filled with the particles that you bring home from work.
    • Prolonged exposure to irritants can lead to serious health conditions, such as silicosis asbestosis.
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    Follow a diet that focuses on boosting your immune system. In particular, vitamin C and zinc have been shown to enhance the effectiveness of your immune system. If you feel like your immune system is weak, and you’re afraid that you will develop bronchitis because of this, increase your intake of foods that contain a lot of vitamin C and zinc.[9].
    • Foods that are rich in vitamin C include: lemons, grapefruits, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, kiwi fruit, oranges, lime, pineapple, Brussels sprout, spinach, onion, garlic and radishes.
    • Foods that are rich in zinc include: spinach, mushrooms, beef, lamb and pork meat.
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    Be extra cautious if you have an immune disorder.[10] When you have a weakened immune system, your body is much more likely to let bacteria or a virus get into you and make you sick (as your immune system is less able to fight it off). If you have an immune system disorder, you should take every precaution to avoid getting bronchitis, since it will be harder for you to get rid of.
    • Immune disorders include intense allergies, asthma, lupus, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.
    • Ways to boost your immune system include taking multivitamins, reducing the amount of stress you experience, getting enough sleep, exercising at least four days a week, and getting your immunizations.[11] For more information on how to strengthen your immune system, click here.
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    Get your flu shot each flu season.[12] Flu season, which happens in the fall and winter months, is the time when you are most likely to get bronchitis. Because of this, it's a good idea to get the flu shot so that you reduce your chances of getting the flu, which can lead to developing bronchitis.
    • The flu shot is recommended for those six months of age or older.
    • Par of the shot is manufactured in eggs. If you have an egg allergy, talk to your doctor before getting a flu shot.
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    Ensure that your child has all of his or her recommended immunizations.[13] In addition to getting your annual flu vaccine, it is especially important to make sure that all of your children (if you have any) are also up to date on their vaccinations. There is a routine immunization schedule for infants and children, which provides long-term immunity against a number of potentially serious infections, some of which could lead to bronchitis.
    • Speak to your local public health nurse or to your family doctor if you have questions regarding the status of your child's immunizations.

Method 3
Watching for Symptoms

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    Watch out for symptoms of acute bronchitis.[14] This form of bronchitis generally develops when you also have an upper-respiratory infection such as a cold or the flu. You will generally have a fever (100.2–102.4°F or 37.9–39.1°C) and feel like all of your muscles are aching.
    • In the first two or three days of being sick, you might have a dry cough (one where you don’t cough up phlegm) accompanied by a slight burning sensation in your chest that feels like heartburn.
    • Five or six days after that, you will have a productive cough (which means you will be coughing up phlegm) and then your symptoms will generally clear up.[15]
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    Be aware that there are two main forms of bronchitis: acute and chronic. Acute bronchitis is more common and it is less worrisome. It is normally brought on by a viral or bacterial infection that runs its course and then goes away. You can get rid of it by managing the cough that develops or, in more intense instances, with an antimicrobial treatment.
    • Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, is persistent and harder to get rid of. Chronic bronchitis is generally recognized as a wet cough that lasts longer than three months that is paired with a lot of mucus production that you will cough up and have to spit out. This sort of bronchitis can lead to other, worse respiratory diseases so it is important to manage it early on.
    • Speak to your doctor if you have a persistent cough or a worry of chronic bronchitis.
    • Patients with cystic fibrosis are prone to recurrent bronchial infections leading to a condition called bronchiectasis.
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    Know when to seek professional medical care.[16] If you display any of the following signs or symptoms, it is time to schedule an appointment with your family doctor immediately. (Note that if you cannot get a same-day appointment with your family doctor, go to the emergency room; the more quickly you can be diagnosed and treated, the better.)
    • A cough with thick or bloody mucus
    • Shortness of breath leading to difficulty breathing
    • A fever greater than 100.4 °F
    • Also schedule an appointment with your family doctor if you have repeated episodes of bronchitis or a cough that has persisted for over three weeks.


  • Bronchitis can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Your treatment will depend on whether your bronchitis if bacterial or viral. For instance, bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics, while viral infections will not respond to antibiotics.

Sources and Citations

  2. Murray&Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine, 5th edition, Saunders Elsevier, pg. 230-231; 664-665
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Categories: Respiratory Health