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Antibiotic Use

Acute Bronchitis

Antibiotics and acute bronchitis

Antibiotics and Acute Bronchitis

The overuse and misuse of antibiotics has led to antibiotic-resistant germs — here’s what you can do to help.

Since 1928, when Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, antibiotics have saved millions of lives. These powerful drugs target and kill bacteria, which is why antibiotics can be used to treat infections caused by bacteria.

However, antibiotics have been used for so long — and for so many unnecessary conditions (including infections caused by viruses) — that bacteria are becoming antibiotic-resistant. As a result, the most effective, safest drugs are now less effective, causing patients to need antibiotics that kill a wider range of bacteria, potentially have more side effects, may not work as well, and cost more. In some cases – that thankfully are rare, so far – there may be no effective antibiotics to treat someone’s infection. We must all therefore do our part to use antibiotics appropriately so we can make sure antibiotics can be used to treat bacterial infections when antibiotics are needed.

Symptoms of Acute Bronchitis

You may experience many or only a few of the symptoms, which include:

  • Cough with or without mucus production
  • Fatigue
  • Chest soreness
  • Mild headache
  • Mild body aches
  • Watery eyes
  • Sore throat

Seeking Care

If you are healthy with no underlying heart or lung problems or a weakened immune system, you should feel better in less than three weeks.

Make an appointment with a healthcare provider if you or your child experience any of the following:

      • Temperature of 100.4° F or higher
      • Cough with bloody mucus
      • Trouble breathing
      • Symptoms that last longer than three weeks
      • Repeated episodes of bronchitis
      • Severe cough associated with a “whooping” sound or vomiting after coughing.


      The good news is that acute bronchitis usually clears up on its own. In most cases, you don’t need antibiotics.

      To feel better:

      • Rest.
      • Drink plenty of fluids.
      • Use a clean humidifier or cool mist vaporizer.
      • Run a hot shower and breathe deeply, or fill a bowl with steam, lean over, and breathe deeply.
      • Use lozenges unless the patient is younger than 4 years old.
      • Talk to your pharmacist about over-the-counter medications that can treat your symptoms.

      If you have whooping cough, pertussis or pneumonia, your healthcare provider will likely prescribe antibiotics. Take them as directed.


      • Wash your hands often.
      • Keep up to date with vaccines.
      • Don’t smoke.
      • Avoid secondhand smoke, chemicals, dust, and air pollution.
      • Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing, so you don’t infect others.

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