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Don’t take antibiotics for acute bronchitis

GEHA | September 2, 2021

For most cases of acute bronchitis, home treatment is the best option.

If you recently had a cold that turned into a nagging cough, you might have acute bronchitis. In medical terms, “acute” means conditions that come on quickly and last a short time.

Bronchitis happens when your bronchial tubes, which carry oxygen from your windpipe to your lungs, become inflamed. The lining of the tubes makes mucus, which makes your cough worse. The condition can also cause wheezing and make it hard to catch your breath.

If you are unsure whether your illness is just an allergy or cold, see your doctor to get the correct treatment. Antibiotics are powerful medicines that treat bacterial infections. Because acute bronchitis is usually caused by a viral infection, antibiotics wouldn't help. The infection needs to run its course and it almost always goes away on its own.

Home treatment focuses on easing the symptoms:

  • Drink fluids, but avoid caffeine and alcohol
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce inflammation, ease pain and lower your fever. Some over-the-counter cough medicines help break up or loosen mucus.
  • Increase the humidity in your home or use a humidifier
  • You might need an inhaler medicine to help with wheezing

If your cough doesn’t improve and you continue to feel sick, see your doctor again. It could be a bacterial infection after all. You may have other breathing problems that keep you from getting over your acute bronchitis.

“Bronchitis diagnosis and treatment: What to know.”, WebMD, LLC, 7 December, 2020.
“Acute bronchitis.”, American Academy of Family Physicians, February 2021.