How and When To Use Antibiotics for Bronchitis, More

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Do antibiotics help bronchitis?

You have acute bronchitis if you have recently suffered from a cold that gradually changed into a lingering cough, headache, and sleeping difficulties. Sometimes, it can also lead to wheezing, causing difficulty in breathing. First, you must consult an expert to ascertain whether your condition is bronchitis, not a common cold, allergy, or any other health issue. This article explains doctors sometimes recommend antibiotics for bronchitis. Read on to know more.

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Should I Take Antibiotics For Bronchitis?

Viruses and bacteria can be responsible for causing bronchitis, and therefore the treatment for bronchitis can vary depending on the cause. It can also differ based on the condition of the individual patient.

Experts believe that in the United States, viral infection is responsible for 90 percent of cases of acute bronchitis. It is the same virus that causes cough, cold, and flu and cannot be treated with antibiotics only.

How would a patient know whether the condition he is suffering from is bronchitis?

Some of the significant symptoms of chronic or acute bronchitis include:

  • Cough
  • Mucus production can be transparent, white, or yellowish-green in color
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Discomfort in the chest
  • Slight chills and fever

People suffering from acute bronchitis also have cold symptoms, including body aches and mild headaches. Even though all symptoms get better within a week, a lingering cough can last for weeks.

In the case of chronic bronchitis, the resultant cough remains for about three months, with the condition frequently reoccurring for two years.

If your bronchitis is chronic, you will typically have bouts of worsened symptoms. This implies that the patient has an acute condition on top of chronic bronchitis in this instance.

Rather than using medication for bronchitis by yourself, it’s essential to consult a doctor if the symptoms persist for over three weeks, stop you from sleeping peacefully, and produce hard mucus and blood with a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees F.

When To Take Antibiotics For Bronchitis

Antibiotics are only prescribed for bronchitis when bacteria cause it, and there’s a high risk of the infection not being resolved on its own. But if a virus causes bronchitis, the condition will not be eased by antibiotics.

Likewise, antibiotics will not be prescribed if the patient is young and healthy with a sound immune system.

When it comes to devising a treatment plan for bronchitis, a health expert typically factors in the following aspects:

  • Whether the patient had any allergic reaction to any antibiotics in the recent past
  • Individual history of vaping and smoking
  • Levels of oxygen in the blood
  • Other ancillary health conditions include heart, autoimmune, and lung conditions like asthma or COPD.

If the patient is given any antibiotic, the healthcare professional chooses the treatment plan depending on the medical history, symptoms, diagnosis, and medical test results.

What are the antibiotics used for bronchitis?

Generally, antibiotics are not the first line of treatment for bronchitis. However, some medical practitioners can recommend antibiotics for bronchitis to help ease the cough. The generally prescribed antibiotics are:


Cephalosporins are antibiotics used to treat a wide array of uncomplicated infections. You can take them orally or through intravenous injection. Cephalosporins are a kind of beta-lactam antibiotic.

Along with treating bacterial bronchial infections, you can use them for treating strep throat, sinus infections, urinary tract infections, meningitis, and pneumonia.

Since some of these are bronchitis symptoms, Cephalosporins are also used to suppress them.

Oral cephalosporins are given to treat milder infections, like a typical case of sore throat. On the other hand, intravenous injections are administered for more severe conditions because they reach the tissues faster, which can boost the healing process.


Fluoroquinolones are highly effective antibiotics containing immense pharmacokinetic properties along with antimicrobial activities. But with a high level of usage, there is also a growth in antimicrobial resistance.

It also effectively treats uncomplicated cystitis, acute rhinosinusitis, and acute bronchitis.

The use of this drug in the treatment of bronchitis is also in line with the recommendations of the FDA.


Aminopenicillins are a class of antibiotics in the penicillin family endowed with an extra amino group that boosts the antibacterial power of the drug.

These medicines are effective against many infections, including urinary, skin, respiratory tract, and gastrointestinal diseases.

These antibiotics have a similar chemical structure to penicillin but a higher level of effectiveness.

Compared to gram-positive bacteria, Aminopenicillins have higher activity against gram-negative bacteria because the layer covering the bacterial cell wall membrane shields the bacteria—Aminopenicillins function by hindering the synthesis of the bacterial wall.

Aminopenicillins are used to treat endocarditis, characterized by inflammation or infection in the blood vessel, lining of the heart, and valve.

It is also effective against meningitis, septicemia, UTI, and respiratory tract diseases, including sinusitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, and pharyngitis.

Extended macrolides

Extended macrolides are a group of drugs used to treat and manage different bacterial diseases. Some commonly used extended macrolides are clarithromycin, azithromycin, and erythromycin.

They are used to treat pharyngitis, tonsillitis, and pneumonia. As a result, they are sometimes given for treating acute bronchitis stemming from bacterial infections.

Macrolides stop the process of bacterial protein synthesis. Once the bacteria bind, the antibiotic inhibits the translation but cannot kill the bacteria entirely unless they are given a high dosage.

4 classes of antibiotics for bronchitis

Best antibiotic treatment for bronchitis in elderly

Older people over 65 have a higher risk of experiencing bronchitis complications because of weak immune systems, years of wear and tear on the lungs and possible underlying health issues.

In addition, age-related risk factors make it more complicated for older people to fight the infection and be free of bronchitis.

In some instances, chronic bronchitis can lead to continued coughing, causing more lung damage.

Older people with acute bronchitis can have a lingering cough for a few weeks but will most often notice improvements in about ten days without a cough medicine.

However, in cases where an elderly patient’s bronchitis is chronic, regular, more intensive treatment is advised to reduce symptoms, prevent hypoxemia, and minimize lung damage.

The therapy for older people may differ depending on the patient’s condition.

How can you treat acute bronchitis without antibiotics?

Regardless of whether a patient is suffering from viral or bacterial bronchitis, several treatments, including home remedies, can help in soothing the symptoms. But, first, ensuring that the patient takes good rest, proper care, and drinks enough liquids is vital.

A saline nasal spray, humidifier, or breathing in steam can help if the patient feels stuffy.

Taking honey, either straight or mixed with hot water, can aid in soothing a sore throat or cough. But it should never be prescribed for a baby aged under one year.

For sore throat, lozenges, popsicles, and candies can help soothe a sore throat. You can ask your healthcare provider if mucus-controlling OTC or cough syrup can help alleviate the condition. OTC painkillers can help relieve body aches, chest pain, and sore throat.

Make sure you check with the healthcare provider regarding the most suitable options, antibiotics for bronchitis, and their dosage.

Homecare remedies cannot be as effective as antibiotics when beating acute bronchitis caused by bacteria, but they can help soothe the symptoms.

Moreover, antibiotics aid the body in warding off the bacteria causing the infection. But it cannot break the mucus or alleviate coughing at night.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Bronchitis is a condition that inflames the lining of the bronchial canals that carry air from the lungs and back. When this happens, the bronchial tubes swell up. As a result, patients afflicted by bronchitis tend to cough up thick transparent mucus.

There are two variants of bronchitis: chronic and acute.

Acute bronchitis is a common inflammation caused by a common cold or other respiratory infection. The condition is also recognized as a chest cold, generally improving within a week to ten days without any adverse effects. But sometimes, the cough stays for a few more weeks.

On the flip side, the chronic version is more severe than acute bronchitis, causes constant breakout or disturbance in the bronchial tube lining, and often stems from smoking.

When a person has recurring acute bronchitis, it may be the chronic variant of bronchitis that needs thorough medical attention.

Bronchiolitis is one of the primary ailments associated with COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. You can view some of the clinical outcomes from related subgroup analyses of airway diseases here.

Several factors can increase someone’s chances of developing bronchitis. First, people who smoke regularly and those subjected to passive smoking are at an increased risk of acquiring this condition.

In addition, people who are regularly exposed to chemical fumes have a higher risk of bronchitis.

For instance, if an individual has some acute illness like a cough and cold or suffers from any chronic condition that compromises the immune system, the risk of bronchitis increases.

Lastly, repeated bouts of heartburn, known as gastric reflux, can irritate the throat and make someone more prone to this disease.

Finally, it’s essential to consider that while one episode of bronchitis is not a matter of concern when not treated, it can lead to pneumonia in some people.

Also, when a person suffers from the disease often, it can indicate that he has COPD.

Although antibiotics are not typically prescribed for bronchitis, it may so happen that the patient is given these medicines to treat a cough caused by some other bacteria.

For instance, Bordetella pertussis is responsible for causing a condition known as whooping cough.

This can lead to a lingering cough, just like bronchitis. Fortunately, the disease is prevented by administering pertussis vaccination, drastically reducing the infection rate.

If a person is not vaccinated against the infection or if a child is too young to be vaccinated, then the cough can stem from the pertussis bacteria.

The symptoms of the condition are similar to bronchitis which include cold-like symptoms such as :

  • A mild and occasional cough
  • Sniffy and runny nose
  • Low-grade fever
  • Pauses in breathing (this is more common in babies)

The condition is called whooping cough because it leads to unusual coughing fits along with a high-pitched whooping sound. This starts happening within a week or two after the initial phase of infection.

The good part is that antibiotics can treat the condition; early treatment is essential for easing symptoms and stopping the disease from spreading further.

Antibiotics used for treating pertussis include erythromycin, clarithromycin, and azithromycin.

If you are recommended antibiotics for bronchitis, taking a complete course ranging from 7 to 14 days is imperative. It’s important to note that continuing to take the drugs is crucial even if you start feeling better before the course is complete.

If you stop taking the medicine before the course is completed, the bacteria may become stronger and even resistant to the drug. This means that the antibiotic may not work again in the future to help fight off the bacteria.

Also, not treating bronchitis can worsen the situation and even become pneumonia.

Antibiotics are not very effective in treating bronchitis caused by viral infections. Besides, there is a chance of adverse effects. And these are the two leading causes why antibiotics are not prescribed for bronchitis.

Some of the common side effects of antibiotics used for treating bronchitis include rash, diarrhea, nausea, anaphylaxis, which can be potentially fatal, and other reactions that need to be treated with other medicines.

Bronchitis itself is not a contagious infection. However, some of the causes of the illness can be highly contagious.

For instance, you can be contagious for a couple of days to a week if a virus causes your bronchitis.

In addition, if your bronchitis is from a bacteria, you may be contagious for up to 24 hours after you start using antibiotics.

No, bronchitis is not contagious through sex. You cannot transmit the virus that causes a cold and cough through the type of skin in your genitals. This is why bronchitis is not contagious through sex. However, you can spread the virus through the mouth, eyes, and nose mucosal lining. Your partner will likely get a cold and cough if your infected spit or mucus enters their eyes, nose, or mouth.


You cannot manage acute bronchitis with medicines. However, if an individual suffers from flu and other symptoms, the doctor may prescribe antivirals to help it ward off faster.

In some cases, medications are not administered to treat bronchitis. Instead, medical practitioners sometimes recommend bronchodilators, a drug that aids in opening the airways when the patient suffers from breathing issues.

Corticosteroids and other anti-inflammatory medications are also given to decrease inflammation.

It’s essential to consult an expert to manage the symptoms by taking warm showers or running a dehumidifier to loosen the mucus and make way for trouble-free breathing.

The content on Doctor Alexa’s blog is reviewed by Advanced practice registered nurses or pharmacist and is intended for educational purposes only. This information should not be relied upon as professional medical counsel. Be sure to always consult with your physician about the dangers and benefits of any medication, treatment or procedure.

You shouldn’t wait to see the doctor for simple health needs.