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Should I Take An Antibiotic For Bronchitis

Acute And Chronic Bronchitis

Should you give steroids for acute bronchitis?

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, bronchitis is divided into two categories: acute and chronic. As usual, the treatment differs depending on the finding. Most of the milder acute cases requiring nothing but rest, while some will need to take paracetamol and anti-inflammatory drugs.

On the other hand, treatment for chronic bronchitis is more complex, often requiring antibiotics and, in some cases, even a lung transplant. For a better understanding of how these two types of bronchitis differ, let us take a closer look at each one below.

  • Acute Bronchitis

Acute bronchitis is usually caused by either an extremely cold surrounding or other environmental factors. These can vary from tobacco to dust as well as other air pollutants.

If bronchitis follows a cold, it will manifest a few days after the first symptoms of the cold have surfaced. At first, the cough will be dry. After a few days, mucus will be produced when coughing. Acute bronchitis will only last for around two to three weeks, but a cough might linger afterward.

This type of bronchitis usually occurs during colder seasons, when 90% of the reported cases are associated with a virus. It can be diagnosed using a simple stethoscope, and the treatment is, as stated above, pretty mild.

  • Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis is caused, in most cases, by smoking or exposure to dangerous gas, the dust found in mine shafts, pesticides used in agriculture, or various harmful cleaning products.

If Your Child Gets Treatment For Pertussis At Home

Do not give cough medications unless instructed by your doctor. Giving cough medicine probably will not help and is often not recommended for kids younger than 4 years old.

Manage pertussis and reduce the risk of spreading it to others by:

  • Following the schedule for giving antibiotics exactly as your childs doctor prescribed.
  • Keeping your home free from irritants as much as possible that can trigger coughing, such as smoke, dust, and chemical fumes.
  • Using a clean, cool mist vaporizer to help loosen mucus and soothe the cough.
  • Practicing good handwashing.
  • Encouraging your child to drink plenty of fluids, including water, juices, and soups, and eating fruits to prevent dehydration . Report any signs of dehydration to your doctor immediately. These include dry, sticky mouth, sleepiness or tiredness, or thirst. They also include decreased urination or fewer wet diapers, few or no tears when crying, muscle weakness, headache, dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Encouraging your child to eat small meals every few hours to help prevent vomiting from occurring.

Antibiotics Of The Penicillin Group

These antibacterial drugs are active againstmost pathogens of bronchitis. But they have many side effects, most often cause allergic reactions or dysbiosis. Therefore, they should be taken together with vitamins C and B, as well as with probiotics to preserve the intestinal microflora. It should be taken into account that the penicillins are active against staphylococci, streptococci and pneumococci, but they are ineffective against chlamydia and mycoplasmas, which can also cause bronchitis.

Of this group, these antibiotics are often prescribedwith bronchitis for children 10 years and under: “Amoxicillin”, “Flemoxin solutab”, “Sulbactam”, “Ospamox.” Antibacterial action is marked by drugs containing amoxicillin with clavulanic acid: “Amoxiclav”, “Augmentin”.

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What Kind Of Coughdoes Need Antibiotics

Unlike acute bronchitis, pneumonia, which can also cause a long-term cough, may require antibiotic therapy. Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi, and can also be a serious complication in patients with severe COVID-19. Pneumonia looks very similar to the flu, though, so youll have to see a doctor to find out whether you need antibiotics. . You can read more about the differences between COVID-19 and the flu here.

The presence of a fever may be a clue that your cough is either caused by the flu or pneumonia rather than acute bronchitis. Symptoms of the flu and pneumonia also include the following :

  • Body ache

Most Sinus Infections Dont Require Antibiotics

Long Term Antibiotics For Chest Infections

Ah, . The New England Journal of Medicine published a clinical practice review of acute sinus infections in adults, that is, sinus infections of up to four weeks. The need for an updated review was likely spurred by the disconcerting fact that while the vast majority of acute sinus infections will improve or even clear on their own without antibiotics within one to two weeks, most end up being treated with antibiotics.

It is this discrepancy that has clinical researchers and public health folks jumping up and down in alarm, because more unnecessary prescriptions for antibiotics mean more side effects and higher bacterial resistance rates. But on the other hand, while 85% of sinus infections improve or clear on their own, theres the 15% that do not. Potential complications are rare, but serious, and include brain infections, even abscesses.

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When To Seek Medical Care

See a doctor if you have:

  • Difficulty breathing or fast breathing
  • Dehydration
  • Fever that lasts longer than 4 days
  • Symptoms that last more than 10 days without improvement
  • Symptoms, such as fever or cough, that improve but then return or worsen
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions

This list is not all-inclusive. Please see a doctor for any symptom that is severe or concerning.

Because colds can have similar symptoms to flu, it can be difficult to tell the difference between the two illnesses based on symptoms alone. Flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses.

In general, flu is worse than a cold, and symptoms are more intense. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations. Flu can have very serious associated complications.

When you have a cold, mucus fills your nose and could cause post-nasal drip, headache, and a sore throat.

What Are The Types Of Bronchitis

Bronchitis can be acute or chronic:

Acute bronchitis comes on quickly and can cause severe symptoms. But it lasts no more than a few weeks. Viruses cause most cases of bronchitis. Many different viruses can infect the respiratory tract and attack the bronchial tubes. Infection by some bacteria can also cause acute bronchitis. Most people have acute bronchitis at some point in their lives.

Chronic bronchitis is rare in children. It can be mild to severe and lasts longer . The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is smoking. The bronchial tubes stay inflamed and irritated, and make lots of mucus over time. People who have chronic bronchitis have a higher risk of bacterial infections of the airway and lungs, like pneumonia.

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Breathing In Irritant Substances

Bronchitis can also be triggered by breathing in irritant substances, such as smog, chemicals in household products or tobacco smoke.

Smoking is the main cause of chronic bronchitis. It can affect people who inhale secondhand smoke, as well as those who smoke themselves.

People with chronic bronchitis often develop another smoking-related lung disease called emphysema, where the air sacs inside the lungs become damaged, causing shortness of breath.

If you smoke, try to stop straight away as smoking aggravates bronchitis and increases your risk of developing emphysema.

Stopping smoking while you have bronchitis can also be the perfect opportunity to quit altogether.

How Can I Help Prevent Acute Bronchitis In My Child

When Should You Take Antibiotics?

You can help prevent acute bronchitis by stopping the spread of viruses that may lead to it. Take these steps:

  • Teach your child to cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.

  • Make sure your child washes his or her hands often.

  • Check that your child is up-to-date on all vaccines, including the yearly flu shot.

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Treating Body Aches And Pains

Taking over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen can help relieve symptoms of bronchitis, such as fever, headache, and aches and pains.

Aspirin should not be given to children or teenagers, unless advised by a doctor, due to the associated risk of Reyes syndrome.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can be hazardous for people with asthma and should be avoided.

Antibiotic Treatment For People With Acute Bronchitis

Review question

We wanted to know whether antibiotics improve outcomes for people with acute bronchitis. We also assessed potential adverse effects of antibiotic therapy.


Acute bronchitis is a clinical diagnosis for an acute cough, which may or may not be associated with coughing up mucus or sputum. Acute bronchitis can be caused by viruses or bacteria. Symptoms generally last for two weeks but can last for up to eight weeks. Antibiotics are commonly prescribed to treat acute bronchitis, but they can have adverse effects such as nausea and diarrhoea as well as cause more serious reactions in those who are allergic. There is no practical test to distinguish between bacterial and viral bronchitis.

Study characteristics

We included randomised controlled trials comparing any antibiotic therapy with placebo or no treatment in people with acute bronchitis or acute productive cough and no underlying chronic lung condition. We included 17 trials with 5099 participants. Co-treatments with other medications to relieve symptoms were allowed if they were given to all participants in the study.

Key results

Our evidence is current to 13 January, 2017.

Quality of the evidence

The quality of these trials was generally good, particularly for more recent studies.

The benefits and risks of antibiotics for acute bronchitis remain unclear despite it being one of the most common illnesses seen in primary care.

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Antibiotics For Cough From Other Causes

While its not likely that youll be prescribed antibiotics for bronchitis, it is possible that youll need antibiotics for an incessant cough caused by another bacteria.

An infection called whooping cough is caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis and can cause a lingering cough. Luckily, its prevented in most cases by the pertussis vaccine, which has reduced whooping cough infections drastically.

If you havent been vaccinated against whooping cough , its possible a cough could be caused by the pertussis bacteria.

The symptoms of pertussis are very similar to those of bronchitis. They include initial cold-like symptoms, including:

  • A sniffly, runny nose
  • A mild, occasional cough
  • Unusual pauses in breathing

In pertussis, especially in those who havent been vaccinated, these symptoms worsen and develop into unusual coughing fits with an accompanying high-pitched whoop sound. This usually happens one to two weeks after the initial infection.

These coughing fits can cause exhaustion and vomiting, and can last a long timeup to 10 weeks or more.

Pertussis infections are treated with antibiotics, and early treatment is essential to ease symptoms and prevent the spread of the disease.

Also, try to stay away from others, especially those too young to be vaccinated. Whooping cough is extremely dangerous to infants.

Antibiotics commonly prescribed to treat pertussis include:

Which Medications Can Help Relieve Other Symptoms

Antibiotics for acute bronchitis

Especially in the early stage of acute , other symptoms like headaches, a sore throat, an earache or joint pain may be caused by the cold or flu viruses. These symptoms can then be treated using pain-relieving and fever-lowering medication such as acetaminophen or non-steroidal .

Acetaminophen and NSAIDs, which include ibuprofen and acetylsalicylic acid , are available from pharmacies without a prescription. They come in the form of tablets, suppositories and syrups. Acetylsalicylic acid isnt suitable for children under the age of twelve who have a viral infection with a fever. This is because it can lead to severe brain and liver damage , although that is rare.

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Avoidance Of Antibiotic Treatment In Adults With Acute Bronchitis

Assesses adults 1864 years of age with a diagnosis of acute bronchitis who were not dispensed an antibiotic prescription .

Antibiotics cost the health care system billions of dollars each year and treating conditions such as acute bronchitis adds to the cost. Current guidelines recommend against antibiotic treatment for acute bronchitis in adults who are otherwise healthy,1,2 because overuse can lead to antibiotic resistance.3

Acute bronchitis almost always gets better on its own therefore, adults who do not have other health problems should not take antibiotics. Ensuring the appropriate use of antibiotics for patients with acute bronchitis will help them avoid harmful side-effects and possible resistance to antibiotics over time.

When Should I See My Healthcare Provider

It is often difficult to know whether you have a cold, bronchitis, or pneumonia because symptoms are similar. See your healthcare provider if you have:

  • A cold that lasts more than two to three weeks.
  • A fever greater than 102° F.
  • A fever that lasts more than five days.
  • A cough that produces blood.
  • Any shortness of breath or wheezing.
  • A change in the color of mucus.

If you have chronic bronchitis/COPD, choose lifestyle and activity changes that promote mental and physical health. Tips include:

  • Working as long as you are able to do so.
  • Managing your emotional health. Talk to a counselor if you need to do so. Make positive changes, like going outside, staying involved with friends and hobbies, getting a good nights sleep and following suggestions of your healthcare provider.
  • Being a partner in your healthcare plan.
  • Asking for support from family and friends.
  • Managing stress by exercising and practicing relaxation methods.
  • Eating well.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/12/2019.


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Living With Acute Bronchitis

Most cases of acute bronchitis go away on their own in 7 to 10 days. You should call your doctor if:

  • You continue to wheeze and cough for more than 2 weeks, especially at night when you lie down or when you are active.
  • You continue to cough for more than 2 weeks and have a bad-tasting fluid come up into your mouth. This may mean you have GERD. This is a condition in which stomach acid gets into your esophagus.
  • Your cough produces blood, you feel weak, you have an ongoing high fever, and you are short of breath. These symptoms may mean you have pneumonia.

The risk of developing complications from acute bronchitis, such as pneumonia, is greater in some people. These include:

  • Young children

Description Of The Condition

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Acute bronchitis is a common illness characterised by fever and cough that is often wheezy in nature and that may or may not be productive. The condition occurs when the bronchi become inflamed due to either viral or bacterial infection. Symptoms generally last for two weeks, but the associated cough can last for up to eight weeks . Acute bronchitis is the ninth most common outpatient illness recorded by physicians in ambulatory practice in the USA , and the fifth most common outpatient illness encountered by Australian general practitioners, for whom it represents 3.5% of encounters and 2.4% of problems seen . In the UK, there are 300 to 400 consultations for treatment of respiratory tract infections per 1000 registered patients each year, and while antibiotic prescribing for these conditions declined between 1995 and 2000, it has since stabilised . Data provided by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control on trends in antimicrobial consumption across Europe suggests that overall antibiotic use varies across Europe, with most countries showing an increase between 1997 and 2010 .

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Antibiotics And Its Role In Treating Bronchitis

While bronchitis is not usually caused by a bacterial infection, there are also times that this happens. In these certain situations, a physician will prescribe antibiotics for treatment. Antibiotics are strong drugs used in treating and preventing bacteria from infecting the body.

Antibiotics have changed modern medicine. Before the discovery of antibiotics, infections were treated very primitively, using mixtures of plants and even molds to try and cure bacterial diseases.

In the 20th century, however, scientists like Alexander Fleming, Ernst Chain, and Howard Florey discovered and produced penicillin G. The medical community instantly recognized the revolutionary effects possessed by antibiotics and have even awarded the three with a Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1945.

Nowadays, antibiotics are widely available and used in many forms of administration and treatments. For bacterial bronchitis, the physician will usually prescribe tablets that are to be administered orally. The dosage depends on the seriousness of the symptoms.

How Is Acute Bronchitis Treated In A Child

Treatment will depend on your childs symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

In nearly all cases, antibiotics should not be used to treat acute bronchitis. Thats because most of the infections are caused by viruses. Even children who have been coughing for longer than 8 to 10 days often don’t need antibiotics.

The goal of treatment is to help ease symptoms. Treatment may include:

  • Plenty of rest

  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever and mild pain

  • Cough medicine for children over 4 years old

  • More fluids

  • Cool-mist humidifier in your childs room

Talk with your childs healthcare provider before giving over-the-counter cough and cold medicine to your child. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend giving these medicines to children younger than 4 years old because they may cause harmful side effects. For children between ages 4 and 6, only use over-the-counter products when recommended by your child’s healthcare provider. In most cases, also dont give antihistamines. They can dry up the secretions. That can make the cough worse.

Dont give aspirin or medicine that contains aspirin to a child younger than age 19 unless directed by your childs provider. Taking aspirin can put your child at risk for Reye syndrome. This is a rare but very serious disorder. It most often affects the brain and the liver.

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