Friday, March 06, 2015

Acute bronchitis

Table of Contents

Alternative Names

Bronchitis - acute


The goal of treatment is to relieve the symptoms. 

In otherwise healthy people, antibiotics should only be prescribed after 10-14 days of persistent cough. At that point, a bacterial infection or presence of sinusitis should be considered.

Medications called bronchodilators that open constricted air passages in the lungs (albuterol) are prescribed for patients with wheezing.

Decongestants (such as pseudoephedrine) may also help alleviate the symptoms of bronchitis. Medications that liquefy mucus secretions (mucolytic agents, like guaifenesin) may also be prescribed, but how well they work remains uncertain.

The patient will also be told to rest, increase humidity (using a cool mist humidifier) to soothe air passages, and increase fluid intake to stay hydrated and to thin mucous lung secretions.

Support Groups

Expectations (prognosis)

Symptoms usually abate within 7 to 14 days in the absence of prior chronic pulmonary disease. However, in some patients, it commonly takes much longer for the cough to go completely away.


Pneumonia is a possible complication. The presence of sinusitis must also be considered. Patients with asthma or other lung conditions may have a worsening of symptoms.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of acute bronchitis.

Call your health care provider if you are being treated for acute bronchitis and:

  • Symptoms last longer than two weeks
  • Breathlessness or wheezing develops
  • You cough up blood

Review Date: 07/05/2005
Reviewed By: John Goldenring, M.D., MPH, Department of Pediatrics, Children's Hospital, San Diego, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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