You DO NOT need antibiotics for acute bronchitis caused by a virus. The infection will generally go away on its own within 1 week. Take the following steps for some relief:
- Do not smoke
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Take aspirin or acetaminophen (Tylenol) if you have a fever. DO NOT give aspirin to children
- Use a humidifier or steam in the bathroom
If your symptoms do not improve, your doctor may prescribe an inhaler to open your airways if you are wheezing. If your doctor thinks that you have a secondary bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed. Most of the time, antibiotics are not needed or recommended.
For any bronchitis, the most important step you can take is to QUIT smoking. If bronchitis is caught early enough, you can prevent the damage to your lungs.
For acute bronchitis, symptoms usually go away within 7 to 10 days if you do not have an underlying lung disorder. However, a dry, hacking cough can linger for a number of months.
The chance for recovery is poor for persons with advanced chronic bronchitis. Early recognition and treatment, combined with smoking cessation, significantly improve the chance of a good outcome.
Pneumonia can develop from either acute or chronic bronchitis. If you have chronic bronchitis, you are more likely to develop recurrent respiratory infections. You may also develop:
- Right-sided heart failure or cor pulmonale
- Pulmonary hypertension
Calling Your Health Care Provider
Call your doctor if:
- You have a cough most days or you have a cough that returns frequently
- You are coughing up blood
- You have a high fever or shaking chills
- You have a low-grade fever for 3 or more days
- You have thick, greenish mucus, especially if it has a bad smell
- You feel short of breath or have chest pain
- You have an underlying chronic illness, like heart or lung disease
Review Date : 9/24/2008
Reviewed By : Benjamin Medoff, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Pulmonary and Critical Care Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.