The novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) is a brand-new respiratory illness that doesn’t always produce symptoms. And when it does, the symptoms can be deceivingly similar to those produced by acute bronchitis. Also known as a chest cold, acute bronchitis is a common lung condition that causes airway inflammation. For example, the hallmark signs of COVID-19 are a persistent dry cough, shortness of breath, and a low-grade fever. Sound familiar? If you didn’t know better, you could easily write off your illness as a run-of-the-mill chest cold. Don’t.
But how can you distinguish between COVID-19 symptoms and acute bronchitis symptoms? In short, you can’t—at least not without the help of a medical provider. And it is important to know the difference. COVID-19 and bronchitis can affect you in different ways. If left untreated, both conditions can progress and lead to serious and sometimes life-threatening complications, such as pneumonia and acute respiratory distress, which may require hospitalization and the use of a ventilator.
If There Is Any Chance You Could Have COVID-19, Act As Though You Do
Even though the symptoms of COVID-19 can be very mild or even unnoticeable, the underlying virus is still highly contagious. Therefore, you should take every precaution and act as though you are infected if there is any chance you might be. For instance, if you believe you may have been exposed to COVID-19 or if you develop COVID-19 symptoms, you should contact a health care provider for guidance on your next steps, which may include COVID-19 testing. Currently, the only way to confirm a diagnosis of COVID-19 is to be tested, although many people do not require testing in order to determine when it is safe to be around others.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if you are confirmed to have COVID-19 or you think you might have COVID-19, you should stay home and avoid contact with others. For how long? If you have symptoms, wait until 10 days after your symptoms first appeared or 24 hours after your fever breaks, whichever is later. If you had close contact with someone who had COVID-19 but do not have any symptoms yourself, wait until 14 days after your last exposure to that person. It is essential to take these steps in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Researchers believe that infected people may be contagious approximately two days before their symptoms develop (if any) and for up to 10 days afterward.
While you quarantine at home, use a thermometer to periodically monitor your body temperature. If it exceeds 102°F or you have other worsening symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, contact a medical provider right away.
If You Have Bronchitis, Keep a Close Watch on Your Symptoms
Typically, a bout of acute bronchitis will resolve on its own within a few weeks. During that time, you should pay close attention to your symptoms. As you recover from your chest cold, your initial dry, hacking cough should gradually transition into a productive cough. In addition to a low-grade fever, you may also experience fatigue, body aches, chills, a runny nose, and a sore throat. You should seek medical attention right away if you feel very uncomfortable or your symptoms seem to be getting worse instead of better. This is important because if left untreated, acute bronchitis can become chronic or progress into pneumonia.
PhysicianOne Urgent Care is your trusted source of COVID-19 testing, bronchitis treatment, and a full slate of other non-emergency urgent care services. To learn more, contact us today or visit one of our walk-in urgent care centers. We have convenient locations throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York.