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What you need if you have bronchitis

GEHA | February 17, 2020

Health and wellness
Avoid antibiotics when fighting bronchitis.

If you have acute bronchitis – better known as a chest cold – you need:

  • Plenty of fluids
  • Lots of rest
  • A humidifier or cool-mist vaporizer
  • Throat lozenges
  • Over the counter medicine like cough syrup, antihistamines or decongestants
  • Chicken soup and your favorite shows to binge watch

One thing you may not need?


Acute bronchitis is the most common form of bronchitis. It occurs when the airways of the lungs swell and produce mucus, which makes you cough.

Generally, symptoms last fewer than three weeks and often include:

  • Chest soreness
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Mild body aches
  • Mild headache
  • Sore throat
  • Watery eyes

Why you shouldn’t take antibiotics

Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a virus and often occurs after an upper respiratory infection. Antibiotics aren’t always recommended and will not help you if your bronchitis is viral. Antibiotics will not treat a viral infection. You'll likely get better on your own. 

If your symptoms persist, your infection may have become bacterial and you may need antibiotics. Be sure to see a doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Temperature of 100.4° or higher
  • Cough with bloody mucus
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Symptoms that last more than three weeks
  • Repeated episodes of bronchitis

How to avoid acute bronchitis

The best way to treat acute bronchitis is to steer clear of it in the first place. Stay healthy by:

  • Washing your hands thoroughly and often
  • Getting recommended vaccines, including an annual flu shot
  • Quitting smoking or vaping and avoiding secondhand smoke
  • Covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing

“Chest Cold (Acute Bronchitis).”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 August 2019.