Do I Need Antibiotics for Bronchitis?

October 16, 2020

Antibiotics are effective only for bacterial disease, so taking them for non-bacterial illness is not only ineffective, but potentially harmful, for three reasons:
1. Our bodies normally carry some bacteria. If we take antibiotics indiscriminately, the bacteria can develop resistance to the antibiotics. Then if the bacteria get out of control and develop an infection, the antibiotics will not be able to do their job.
2. Every antibiotic can be used effectively only a finite number of times, for the same reason. Every time we are treated with a given antibiotic, that medication can be used one fewer time. Resistant bacteria put the public’s health in danger, and force pharmaceutical firms to perform expensive research, keeping the cost of healthcare high.
3. Like every medication, antibiotics have side effects. Most are not that serious, like an upset stomach or vomiting and diarrhea. But there are more serious side effects that in rare circumstances can even cause death.


What is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis, or inflammation of the bronchi, tubes leading from the throat to the lungs, is most of the time not caused by bacteria. Frequently it can be caused by smoke, dust, allergies, or viruses, which antibiotics cannot harm, although bacterial bronchitis is also a possibility in a minority of cases. Also, if more common types of bronchitis do not heal, secondary infection with bacteria or bacterial pneumonia can take place. Only then should antibiotics be prescribed.

Signs and symptoms of bronchitis

● Cough with sputum
● Low-grade fever
● Tiredness
● Shortness of breath
● Chest discomfort, sometimes described as tightness


● Avoid smoking
● After the pandemic, continue to wear mask when exposed to dust
● Get your flu and pneumonia vaccines (the latter one is recommended for everyone 65 or older)
● Stay hydrated and eat healthy
● Treat a cold with rest
● Wash your hands and avoid touching your face
● Stay away from crowded conditions during flu season

Medications for Bronchitis

● For acute cases, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can reduce discomfort
● Robitussin and Mucinex can help break up mucus
● For chronic bronchitis bronchodilators such as albuterol (Proventil) and levalbuterol (Xopenex) can be helpful in some patients as they open up the bronchi, and cortisone is used to lessen inflammation

Note that bronchitis should not be confused with a COPD flare, which requires antibiotics most of the time.

If you are unsure about your condition our doctors are here to help and can prescribe you the appropriate medications online to help you get better.

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