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Should You Take Antibiotics for Bronchitis?

Blog Cold & flu

Should You Take Antibiotics for Bronchitis?

writtenByWritten by: Christina Wedberg
Christina Wedberg

Christina Wedberg

Christina has been a writer since 2010 and has an M.F.A. from The New School for Social Research. Christina specializes in writing about health issues and education.

Read more posts by this author.

September 25, 2018 Read Time - 4 minutes

If you wake up one morning and you feel under the weather with a cough that just won’t go away, you may be thinking that you have bronchitis. You also might wonder if you need to visit your doctor to get a prescription for antibiotics. Read on to find out more about whether or not you need to take antibiotics for bronchitis and what to do to get feeling better again.

What is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is a condition that causes inflammation and irritation inside your bronchial tubes. There are two types of bronchitis: acute and chronic. The type of the bronchitis that you have will determine how long it may take you to recover.

Acute bronchitis lasts around 10 to 21 days. It can result from allergies or it can be caused by having another illness such as the cold or flu.

Chronic bronchitis is type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The symptoms from chronic bronchitis are long lasting and it may take at least three months to recover. You may also suffer from subsequent episodes of chronic bronchitis that come and go after the initial episode for two years or more.

What are the Symptoms of Bronchitis?

A case of bronchitis is diagnosed based upon your symptoms. Some symptoms of bronchitis may include:

  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Aches and pains
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever and chills
  • Chest discomfort
  • Production of sputum – This mucus can be yellowish or green, white, clear, and sometimes streaked with blood

Generally, with acute bronchitis you might feel like you have the symptoms of a cold, but you may have a nagging cough that lingers on and on for much longer. With chronic bronchitis, your cough will be productive and last for at least three months.

Should You Take Antibiotics for Bronchitis?

Because bronchitis is usually caused by a virus that follows the flu or a cold, antibiotics usually do not help a case of acute bronchitis. In fact, most experts recommend that you do not use antibiotics to help with the symptoms of acute bronchitis, as long as you have no other health issues. If you do take antibiotics for acute bronchitis, they may shorten then length of time that you sick to about one day less.

If you take antibiotics too often, the medicine may not work as effectively the next time. This means that you may become antibiotic resistant. However, if you have other health issues such as COPD, cystic fibrosis, heart failure, or asthma, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics for bronchitis prevent further complications. It is important to note that you should take the full course of antibiotics for bronchitis that you doctor prescribes in order to maximize its effectiveness.

How Do You Treat Bronchitis Without Antibiotics?

You can help relieve the symptoms of acute bronchitis by taking over-the counter medications or using home remedies. Try following some of these suggestions:

  • Drink plenty of fluids – Drinking hot or cold fluids will help relieve your cough and keep you hydrated which may improve your recovery time.
  • Get lots of rest – Your body needs to fight the virus off, so getting plenty of rest is essential to helping you get better.
  • Take over-the counter medicines – Try taking a pain reliever such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen to help with body aches and pains.

When Should You See Your Doctor?

You should see you doctor for bronchitis if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath that is getting worse or comes on suddenly
  • Confusion
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • A fever that lasts for more than 3 days
  • A cough that lasts for more that 3 weeks

You can also use a tele healthcare service such as and make an appointment to see a doctor online. It is easy, convenient, and you will be able to get an appointment time that works for you without having to leave your home.

Experiencing symptoms of bronchitis? Book an appointment with a PlushCare physician and get a treatment plan or prescription today.

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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