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When to Seek Medical Care

Although most cases of bronchitis clear up on their own, some people may have complications that their doctor can ease.

Severe coughing that interferes with rest or sleep can be reduced with prescription cough medications.

Wheezing may respond to an inhaler with albuterol (Proventil, Ventolin), which dilates the airways.

If fever continues beyond four to five days, see the doctor for a physical examination to rule out  pneumonia .

See a doctor if the patient is coughing up blood, rust–colored sputum, or an increased amount of green phlegm.

When to go to the hospital

If the patient experiences difficulty breathing with or without wheezing and they cannot reach their doctor, go to a hospital's emergency department for evaluation and treatment. By far, the majority of cases of bronchitis stem from viral infections. This means that most cases of bronchitis are short–term and require nothing more than treatment of symptoms to relieve discomfort.

Antibiotics will not cure a viral illness.

Experts in in the field of infectious disease have been warning for years that overuse of antibiotics is allowing many bacteria to become resistant to the antibiotics available.

Doctors often prescribe antibiotics because they feel pressured by people's expectations to receive them. This expectation has been fueled by both misinformation in the media and marketing by drug companies. Don't expect to receive a prescription for an antibiotic if your infection is caused by a virus.

Acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen will help with fever and muscle aches.

Drinking fluids is very important because fever causes the body to lose fluid faster. Lung secretions will be thinner and easier to clear when the patient is well hydrated.

A cool mist vaporizer or humidifier can help decrease bronchial irritation.

An over-the-counter cough suppressant may be helpful. Preparations with guaifenesin will loosen secretions; dextromethorphan-the "DM" in most over the counter medications suppresses cough.


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