How is bronchitis diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you questions about your health, for example:

  • if you have recently had a cold
  • what your symptoms are
  • what medicines you are taking
  • details of your medical history
  • any other medical conditions you may have (e.g. asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD]).

Your doctor may examine you, and listen to your breathing using a stethoscope (a device used to listen to your breathing and heart beat). In bronchitis, the airways become inflamed and lots of mucus is produced.

Laboratory tests

Throat swab

If you have a fever (a temperature of 38.5°C or higher), a sore throat and a cough, your doctor may also take a sample from your throat and nose using a sterile cotton swab, which will be sent off for laboratory tests to find out what is causing the infection.

Chest X-ray

Your doctor may recommend a chest X-ray if your symptoms get worse, as pneumonia is a common complication of bronchitis.

  • Respiratory Expert Group. Therapeutic guidelines: Respiratory; Acute bronchitis. Melbourne: Therapeutic Guidelines Ltd; March 2012, (accessed 27 March 2012).