Bronchitis is a condition characterized by swelling and inflammation in the tubes that carry air to your lungs, known as the bronchi. Some types of bronchitis cause a low-grade fever.
Acute bronchitis is inflammation caused by an underlying infection, like a cold or the flu. Acute bronchitis can cause a fever. Chronic bronchitis, however, is inflammation that builds over time, most often due to smoking. If you have chronic bronchitis, you’re unlikely to have a fever.
Here’s what you should know about the types of bronchitis and what having a fever might tell you about your case.
When Can Bronchitis Cause a Fever?
If your bronchitis is caused by an underlying infection, like the common cold, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), or influenza, you may experience a fever. Bronchitis caused by an infection is known as acute bronchitis.
How Long Could a Fever From Bronchitis Last?
Even after you’ve seen a healthcare provider and started antibiotics, your fever might last for up to five days after treatment has started.
With a mild case of acute bronchitis, you may experience a low-grade fever, which is a temperature of 100.3 F or less.
In more severe cases, your fever might be higher, rising to 102 F.
Remember, not all people with acute bronchitis have a fever, and people with chronic bronchitis will not have a fever. If you think you have bronchitis but are not experiencing a fever, you may still want to contact your healthcare provider.
What to Expect
Bronchitis can be a long-lasting condition. In fact, the symptoms of acute bronchitis can last for months, while the symptoms of chronic bronchitis last even longer. Your fever, however, should resolve within days of starting treatment.
Fever is part of your body’s immune response, so it’s entirely natural and even helpful to develop a fever if your bronchitis is caused by infection. Most commonly, people with acute bronchitis have a low-grade fever, although some people might experience a fever as high as 102 F. If you have a fever, you’ll likely experience accompanying symptoms like body aches and chills.
In most cases, a fever associated with bronchitis will last three to five days. Since bronchitis is often caused by viral infections, antibiotics aren’t generally used to treat bronchitis. If your healthcare provider does prescribe antibiotics, you might still experience fever symptoms for days even after treatment starts.
The primary symptom of bronchitis, whether acute or chronic, is a cough. This might be a dry or wheezing cough, or a productive cough that brings up phlegm and mucus.
Additional symptoms of acute bronchitis include:
- Runny nose
- So throat
- Congestion in the chest and sinuses
- Shortness of breath
Like adults, children with acute bronchitis may experience a mild fever. However, kids can have bronchitis without a fever too.
Symptoms of bronchitis in children are similar to those in adults, including:
- Runny nose
- So throat
Children might also experience vomiting or gagging, back pain, and a general feeling of being unwell.
How to Treat
If you experience a fever when you have bronchitis, you can take fever-reducing medications to make yourself more comfortable. In addition, managing the other symptoms of bronchitis can help you feel better too.
Treatments for bronchitis often include home remedies, such as:
- Use a humidifier: A cool-mist humidifier adds moisture to the air, which can make it more comfortable to breathe when you have bronchitis. Moist air also loosens the mucus in your lungs, making it easier to clear by coughing.
- Drink lots of fluids: Fluids also help keep mucus loose, which can reduce buildup in your lungs and bronchi.
- Rest: Getting plenty of sleep and rest allows your body to fight the infection that’s causing your bronchitis.
Treating Fever in Adults
Adults with bronchitis who experience fever can take over-the-counter fever-reducing drugs, including:
These medications have the added benefit of helping to reduce pain and discomfort, so they’ll help you feel better overall. Just remember that even if you’re feeling better, it’s important to rest while you have acute bronchitis.
Treating Fever in Kids
In children, fever can be treated with acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Aspirin Warning in Children
Kids younger than 19 years of age should never take aspirin, since it can put them at risk for Reye’s syndrome, a rare but serious illness.
Bronchitis or Pneumonia?
If you experience a fever caused by bronchitis, your healthcare provider might want to take additional steps to rule out pneumonia. The symptoms of pneumonia include fever, although adults may have pneumonia without having a high fever. In kids, a fever is sometimes one of the only symptoms of pneumonia.
Telling the difference between pneumonia and bronchitis can be tricky. Both conditions have similar symptoms, including cough, fever, and pain.
If you’re feeling unwell, it’s best to check with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis. Generally speaking, fever is more common with pneumonia, which can be treated with antibiotics. Reaching out to your practitioner could help you start feeling better sooner.
When to See a Healthcare Provider
Anytime you’re experiencing a fever and respiratory symptoms that last a few days or longer, it’s a good idea to reach out to your healthcare provider. They can help you rule out serious issues like a bacterial infection and guide you toward home remedies that can help alleviate symptoms.
If you are experiencing respiratory symptoms and have a fever of 101 F or higher, it’s important to see a practitioner. A high fever can indicate a bacterial infection, which can develop after you’ve had a viral infection.
In addition, you should see a medical provider if:
As always, if you’re having trouble breathing or having chest pain that you find concerning, call 911 or seek emergency care immediately.
A Word From Verywell
Having a cough, fever, and body aches can make you feel miserable, and diagnosing the underlying cause of the condition can be tricky.
Bronchitis can cause a fever in some cases, but oftentimes bronchitis happens with no fever. Likewise, a fever is more common for people who have pneumonia, but not everyone with pneumonia will develop a fever.
If you have symptoms—including cough and fever—that don’t get better within a few days, it’s a good idea to contact your healthcare provider. They’ll be able to listen to your lungs, gauge your symptoms, and make recommendations for treatment to get you back on your feet.
Remember that recovering from bronchitis or pneumonia can be a long process, and your cough might stick around for months. Take it easy and get plenty of rest in order to speed up your recovery.