Acute Bronchitis - Treatment Overview
acute bronchitis in otherwise healthy people usually
includes taking steps to reduce cough, fever, and pain. Prescription medicines,
such as antibiotics, generally are not beneficial. If you already have a
disease, such as
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),
heart failure, or
asthma, evaluation and treatment may be more
Most cases of acute bronchitis go away in 2 to 3 weeks,
but some may last more than 4 weeks. Home treatment to relieve symptoms is
usually all that is needed. This includes:
- Stopping smoking, if you smoke, and not letting other people smoke around you.
- Relieving your cough by drinking fluids, using cough
drops, and avoiding lung irritants. 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.
- Avoiding caffeine and alcohol, which cause you to lose extra
fluid from your body and may lead to
- Getting enough rest so your body has the energy needed to fight
the infection. In general, you feel better sooner if you rest more than usual
while you have acute bronchitis.
- Using nonprescription medicine, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen,
or aspirin, to relieve fever and body aches.
Follow all directions on the label. If you give medicine to your baby, follow your doctor’s advice about what amount to give. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age
20 because of the risk of Reye syndrome, a rare but serious disease.
- Breathing moist air from a humidifier, hot shower, or sink filled
with hot water. The heat and moisture can help keep mucus in your airways moist
so it can be coughed out easily.
If prescription medicines are required, they may
- Inhaled beta2-agonists, which open up (dilate) the
airways and may relieve coughing in people with asthma or COPD who have a hard time breathing. But
the possible benefit should be weighed against possible side effects of
shaking, tremor, and nervousness.
- Antibiotics, which may be used to treat
people who are at increased risk for complications
from acute bronchitis. They may also be used if symptoms do not improve after
using a beta2-agonist and home treatment. For acute bronchitis in otherwise
healthy people, antibiotics typically are not beneficial. For more information,
- Bronchitis: Should I Take Antibiotics?
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 it is used. Talk to your doctor
about antibiotics. Find out whether they are needed and what their benefits
and risks are in treating acute bronchitis.
It is important to
seek medical care if you have a long-term (chronic) lung disease such as
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and you
have signs of acute bronchitis. Early treatment of acute bronchitis may
prevent complications, such as
pneumonia or repeated episodes of acute bronchitis
caused by bacteria. This commonly occurs in people who smoke and in people with
immune system problems, such as
cystic fibrosis, and cancer.