In otherwise healthy people, antibiotics usually aren’t helpful. That’s because acute bronchitis is almost always caused by a virus, which will not respond to antibiotics. Antibiotics are is usually only needed if your doctor diagnoses you with whooping cough or pneumonia.
Medications called bronchodilators are used to open tight air passages in the lungs. Your doctor may prescribe this type of medicine if you are wheezing.
Decongestants may also help relieve symptoms of bronchitis. Medications that loosen mucus may also be prescribed, but how well they work remains uncertain.
Your doctor will tell you to
- Drink more fluids to help thin mucus in the lungs.
- Soothe your airways by increasing humidity in the air (you can do this by using a cool mist humidifier).
Symptoms will usually go away within 7–14 days if you don’t have chronic pulmonary disease. However, it may take much longer for the cough to go away in some people.
Pneumonia is a possible complication. Some people also may have sinusitis. People who have asthma or other lung conditions may find that their symptoms get worse.
Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of acute bronchitis.
Call your health care provider if you are being treated for acute bronchitis and:
- Your symptoms last longer than 2 weeks.
- You develop breathlessness or wheezing.
- You cough up blood.
Good handwashing is one of the best ways to avoid getting viruses and other respiratory infections.
Since flu viruses have been shown to be a major cause of bronchitis, getting a flu shot may also help prevent acute bronchitis. Limit your exposure to cold, damp environments. When combined with air pollution or tobacco smoke, the cold and damp may make you more likely to get bronchitis.