Bronchitis - Treatment

Simple cases of acute bronchitis are treated like a common cold. The patient is told to drink plenty of fluids, to rest, and to avoid smoking. An air humidifier should be used to increase moisture in the air. Acetaminophen (pronounced uh-see-tuh-MIN-uh-fuhn, trade names Datril, Tylenol, Panadol) should be taken for fever and pain. Aspirin should not be given to children because it may cause the serious illness Reye's syndrome (see Reye's syndrome entry).

Coughing that brings up phlegm should not be treated because it helps remove mucus and other harmful materials from the lungs. If not removed, they collect in the lungs and block airways. Cough suppressants can be used with dry coughs, however.

People with bronchitis may get some relief from expectorant cough medicines. While these medicines do not reduce coughing, they do thin mucus in the lungs, which makes the mucus easier to cough up.

Bacterial infections may accompany acute bronchitis. These infections can be treated with antibiotics. The most important rule about antibiotics is to take the full amount prescribed. Failure to do so can cause the infection to return. A variety of antibiotics is available for use with adults, including trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (pronounced tri-METH-o-prim/SULL-fuhmeth-OCK-suh-zole, trade names Bactrim or Septra), azithromycin (pronounced uh-zith-ro-MISE-uhn, trade name Zithromax), and clarithromycin (pronounced kluh-rith-ruh-MISE-uhn, trade name Biaxin). Children under the age of eight are usually given amoxicillin (pronounced uh-MOK-sih-SIL-in, trade names Amoxil, Pentamox, Sumox, Trimox).

Chronic Bronchitis

The treatment of chronic bronchitis is complex. It depends on the stage of the disease and whether other health problems are present. An important first step is giving up smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke (smoke from other people's cigarettes) and air pollutants. A regular program of controlled exercise is also important.

Drug therapy begins with bronchodilators (pronounced brong-ko-die-LATE-urs). These drugs relax the muscles of the bronchial tubes and allow air to flow more freely. Common bronchodilators include albuterol (pronounced al-BYOO-tuh-rol, trade names Ventolin, Proventil, Apo-Salvent) and metaproterenol (pronounced met-uh-pro-TER-uh-nol, trade names Alupent, Orciprenaline, Metaprel, Dey-Dose). They can be taken by mouth or inhaled with a nebulizer. A nebulizer is a device that delivers a carefully measured amount of medication to the airways.

Anti-inflammatory medications are used to reduce swelling of airway tissues. Corticosteroids (pronounced kor-tih-ko-STIHR-oids), such as prednisone (pronounced PRED-nih-zone), can be taken by mouth or by injection. Other steroids are inhaled. Long-term steroid use can have serious side effects and should be avoided.

Drugs are available to reduce the amount of mucus produced. Ipratropium (pronounced ip-ruh-TRO-pee-uhm, trade name Atrovent) is one such drug. In the late stages of the disease, patients may need extra oxygen supplied from an oxygen tank through a mask. Hospitalization may also be required to provide the medical care needed in the last stages of the disease.

Alternative Treatment

The focus of alternative treatments is a healthy diet that strengthens the immune system. A number of herbal medicines have also been recommended for the treatment of bronchitis. These treatments include the inhaling of eucalyptus (pronounced yoo-kuh-LIP-tus) or certain other oils in warm steam and drinking a tea made of mullein, coltsfoot, and anise seed. Hydrotherapy, the use of water and water vapors, may also help clean out the chest and stimulate the immune system.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:

The Content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of Content found on the Website.