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Acute Bronchitis - Medications

Most cases of acute bronchitis in otherwise healthy people go away in 2 to 3 weeks. You typically only need nonprescription medicines to treat your symptoms. Most people do not need to use prescription medicines, such as antibiotics.

Medication Choices

  • Over-the-counter cough suppressants may help you to stop coughing. And expectorants may make coughing easier so you can bring up mucus. Cough and cold medicines may not be safe for young children or for people who have certain health problems. Before you use them, check the label. If you do use these medicines, always follow the directions about how much to use based on age and in some cases weight.
  • Nonprescription pain relievers and fever reducers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20.

Your doctor may prescribe:

What to Think About

Most cases of acute bronchitis are caused by viruses, which are not affected by antibiotics. Using antibiotics when they are not needed is expensive, it can lead to side effects from antibiotic therapy, and some bacteria may become resistant to the antibiotic. This resistance may make the antibiotic less effective the next time you use it. Talk to your doctor about antibiotics. Find out whether they are needed and what their benefits and risks are in treating acute bronchitis.

If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.

Corticosteroids, which may help relieve difficulty breathing, frequent wheezing, or a persistent cough, may be prescribed if other medical conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma are present.

Other medicines may be prescribed to treat complications, such as pneumonia. The medicine used depends on the complication.


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 04, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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