Most cases of acute bronchitis resolve in two weeks or less without medical treatment. Consulting a doctor is often not a necessary step, and symptoms can be easily managed at home. Cases of chronic bronchitis typically do require medical treatment, but healthy lifestyle choices can help reduce the severity of symptoms. Most importantly, patients who smoke should stop smoking immediately.
Managing Symptoms At Home
Patients with bronchitis should get plenty of rest. They should also drink lots of fluids, which can help to prevent dehydration. Drinking fluids may also help to thin the mucus in the lungs, making it easier to cough up.
Headaches, fever, and body aches can be treated with paracetamol or ibuprofen, although ibuprofen is not recommended if a person has asthma.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has recommended that over-the-counter cough medicines should not be given to children under the age of six. As an alternative to an over-the-counter cough medicine, try making your own mixture of honey and lemon. This can help soothe a painful throat and ease your cough.
If you smoke, you should stop immediately. Smoking intensifies the severity of the symptoms of bronchitis, and can increase your risk of developing a long-term (chronic) condition. Quitting smoking while you have bronchitis is a great opportunity to quit altogether.
In some situations, a doctor may prescribe medications, including:
- Antibiotics. Although treatment from a physician is rarely necessary, there may be times when a patient with acute bronchitis should seek medical care. Your doctor will not typically prescribe antibiotics, because bronchitis is almost always caused by a virus. Antibiotics have no effect on viruses, and prescribing them when they are unnecessary can, over time, make bacteria more resistant to antibiotic treatment.
Consequently, the doctor will only prescribe antibiotics if the patient has an increased risk of developing complications, such as pneumonia. Antibiotics may be recommended for:
- Premature babies
- Elderly patients over the age of 80
- Patients with a history of heart, lung, kidney or liver disease
- Patients with a weakened immune system
- Patients with cystic fibrosis
If you are prescribed antibiotics for bronchitis, it is likely to be a five-day course of amoxicillin, tetracycline, or doxycycline. Possible side effects of these medicines include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, but they are not common.
- Other Medications: It is best not to suppress a productive cough, because coughing can help to remove irritants from your lungs and airways. If your cough makes it difficult to sleep, you may want to consider a cough suppressant at night.
If a patient has allergies, asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a doctor may recommend an inhaler or other medications to reduce irritation and open narrowed passages within the lungs.
Treatment for Chronic Bronchitis
Chronic bronchitis is treated in the same manner as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). A type of medication called mucolytic can be used to make mucus easier to cough up.
In addition, an exercise program known as pulmonary rehabilitation can help you to cope with your symptoms. Pulmonary rehabilitation is a breathing exercise program in which a respiratory therapist teaches the patient how to breathe more easily. Over time, this will increase his or her ability to exercise.