COVID-19 vs. Bronchitis

Kenneth Knowles, MD
Medically reviewed by Kenneth Knowles, MDJanuary 7th, 2021
coughing older woman

So, you have a bothersome cough that you can’t shake. Is it bronchitis, COVID-19 or something else entirely? Living through a rapidly evolving global healthcare crisis can easily cause you to question every symptom you experience, so let’s take a closer look at the differences between COVID-19 and bronchitis to help clear up any confusion.


COVID-19 is the respiratory illness caused by the novel (new) coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2. This highly contagious viral disease is spread primarily through respiratory droplets that are inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through mucous membranes. Staying six feet apart from others in public and wearing a mask can help you avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19.

Most cases of COVID-19 are associated with mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. When symptoms are present, they may include:

COVID-19 usually resolves on its own in 10 to 14 days without professional medical treatment. However, seniors and individuals with pre-existing medical conditions are at an increased risk of experiencing serious complications, including pneumonia and respiratory failure, and should be especially mindful of worsening symptoms. Patients with difficulty breathing, high fever, persistent chest pain or bluish skin should call 911 immediately.


Bronchitis occurs when the lining of the bronchial tubes becomes inflamed as a result of a viral or bacterial infection. The majority of cases are linked to the same type of viruses that cause colds and flu. The most common symptoms of bronchitis include:

  • A wheezing cough
  • A cough that produces clear or discolored mucus
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Chest discomfort
  • Low-grade fever and chills

There are two types of bronchitis: acute and chronic. Acute bronchitis, the most common type, is a short-term illness that comes on suddenly. Chronic bronchitis is a long-term condition that falls under the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) umbrella.

How to Tell The Difference

Only a medical professional with proper testing capabilities can definitively determine what is to blame for your symptoms. While you’re waiting to speak with a medical professional, though, here are some key differentiators between the symptoms of COVID-19 and bronchitis that may provide some clarity:

  • COVID-19 is more likely to cause a dry cough, fever, chills, diarrhea, and loss of taste or smell.
  • Bronchitis is more likely to cause a wet cough.

Whatever your symptoms, it’s always a good idea to err on the side of caution and get tested for COVID-19.

The Relationship Between COVID-19 & Bronchitis

It’s also important to note that individuals with chronic bronchitis—a form of COPD—are at an increased risk of developing serious complications from COVID-19. If you have COPD, it’s important to promptly receive coronavirus testing if you develop any new symptoms or believe you may have been exposed to the virus. And as always, never delay medical care if your symptoms begin to worsen or become severe.

DispatchHealth offers a safe and convenient way for people with COVID-19 or bronchitis symptoms to find the answers they need. Our fully equipped medical teams offer on-demand, in-home testing for COVID-19 as well as treatment for coronavirus symptoms, bronchitis and COPD exacerbations. This way, there’s no need to sit in a crowded medical office or needlessly expose yourself to germs. Our medical professionals are available 365 days a year and adhere to the most rigorous of safety and sanitation protocols to keep patients safe.

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Requesting care from DispatchHealth is simple. Just give us a call, go on our website, or use or app, and we’ll promptly send a medical team to your doorstep. We accept most health insurance plans and offer affordable rates to make top-quality in-home medical care as accessible as possible.


DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.

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The DispatchHealth blog provides tips, tricks and advice for improving lives through convenient, comfortable healthcare.

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