How is bronchitis treated?


Acute and chronic bronchitis are treated with fundamentally different approaches, although there are several treatments that can be used for both conditions. In general, the cornerstone of therapy for both forms is based on improving comfort, ensuring optimal breathing, and reducing coughing.

The most common treatments for acute bronchitis include rest and symptomatic treatment when the inflammation is the result of a viral infection. If the cause is a bacterial infection, antibiotics can also be used. On the other hand, chronic bronchitis is treated with medications that reduce bronchial inflammation, such as inhaled or oral steroids, as well as lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking.

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Home remedies and lifestyle

If you have been diagnosed with acute or chronic bronchitis , you probably do not need to be hospitalized. For both acute and chronic bronchitis, a lot of attention is paid to home remedies and lifestyle changes.

  • Avoid Smoke and Fumes – Acute and chronic bronchitis can be aggravated by cigarette smoke, industrial inhalants, and environmental fumes, such as grill smoke. If possible, avoid inhaling irritants, as they can increase the inflammatory response of the bronchial tubes .
  • Moisturizers Using a moisturizer can reduce the discomfort of acute bronchitis and sometimes help with chronic bronchitis as well. Humidifiers moisten the air, making it easier to breathe and thinning mucus. It can even partially relieve pain caused by inhaling dry air.

Acute bronchitis

  • Rest: Acute bronchitis can cause severe fatigue. This is due to both an infection and a persistent cough. When you are sick, it is important to get as much rest as possible.
  • Fluids: For any type of respiratory infection, it is important to drink clear liquids because you need to stay hydrated, which helps loosen mucus in your chest and throat .

OTC Treatments

Several over-the-counter medications can help relieve some of the symptoms of acute and chronic bronchitis. These medications are generally most effective for short-term use if you have acute bronchitis. In most cases, your healthcare provider will recommend prescription medications that have a longer lasting effect on chronic bronchitis.

  • Pain relievers Pain relievers and antipyretics such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help relieve chest pain and pain that can occur when coughing with bronchitis.
  • Fever Medications Many medications that can lower a fever also relieve mild pain, so these over-the-counter medications can serve a dual purpose. Do not take them in excess of the recommended doses, and be sure to tell your doctor or your child's pediatrician about any over-the-counter medications they are taking.
  • Cough Medications: Cough medications or expectorants may be helpful if your cough is dry or unproductive. If you have a persistent cough due to chronic bronchitis, your healthcare provider may prescribe a prescription cough suppressant.


Prescription medications for bronchitis provide comfort, and some prescription medications can help cure the disease itself.

  • Antibiotics: Most cases of acute bronchitis are caused by viral infections , which means that they cannot be treated with antibiotics. Taking them will not help you get better faster and can lead to other problems, such as resistance to antibiotics. If you have acute bronchitis caused by a bacterial infection , you may need to take prescription antibiotics. The specific antibiotic is determined based on the likely bacterial organism.
  • Bronchodilators : Bronchodilators like proventil (albuterol) relax the muscles around the bronchial tubes, allowing them to widen. Helps clear bronchial secretions, relieving bronchospasm and reducing airway obstruction. Your wheezing and chest tightness may temporarily slow and more oxygen can flow to your lungs, increasing your energy level. Some of these medications are called " rescue inhalers" because they act quickly and are used to treat sudden bouts of shortness of breath associated with bronchospasm.
  • Steroids: Oral steroids can be used to treat chronic bronchitis when symptoms rapidly worsen. Inhaled steroids are generally used to treat stable symptoms or when symptoms slowly worsen.
  • Phosphodiesterase -4 (PDE4) inhibitors: PDE4 inhibitors. Dalirep (roflumilast ) is a class of drugs that treat inflammation associated with lung disease. PDE4 inhibitors, taken by mouth once a day, help reduce the exacerbation of chronic bronchitis, usually with minimal side effects .

Guidelines for discussion with a bronchitis physician

Get our printed guide to your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Specialized procedures

Various treatments can help relieve symptoms and congestion in chronic bronchitis. These procedures are generally non-invasive and easily tolerated, but must be performed under the guidance of an experienced professional.

  • Chest physical therapy: This procedure, also called chest percussion, is a technique that involves patting the chest and / or back to help loosen mucus and make coughing easier. It is often used with postural drainage and can be done with the palms of the hands folded or with an airway purifier.
  • Postural drainage : This technique uses gravity to remove mucus from the airways. Both chest physical therapy and postural drainage work better after treatment with bronchodilators.
  • Airway Cleaners – These devices are used in conjunction with chest therapy and postural drainage to better remove mucus from the lungs. These devices have been shown to improve outcomes compared to physical therapy and drainage alone. They are relatively affordable and easy to use, and your doctor or healthcare provider may recommend a device if you have chronic bronchitis.
    Positive expiratory pressure (PEP) devices allow you to breathe against air pressure.
  • High-frequency vibration devices, such as the Flutter Mucus Purifier and the Acapella PEP Vibration Device, gently vibrate small and large airways.
  • The lung flute , a portable device, generates low-frequency sound waves in the airways.

Complementary Medicine (CAM)

There are several alternative treatments for bronchitis. Some of these have been investigated with limited results:

  • Eucalyptus oil: Eucalyptus may have antiviral properties; Using eucalyptus steam oil can reduce some of the symptoms of acute bronchitis.
  • Pelargonium√≠dosides – Also known as umckaloabo, P. desdeidos is a herbal remedy that can be effective in relieving symptoms of acute bronchitis.
  • Slippery elm: As a tea, slippery elm can help relieve a sore throat that may be associated with bronchitis. Slippery elm contains mucus, a jelly-like substance that can reduce inflammation.

Frequently asked questions

  • Acute bronchitis can lead to secondary infections in people with asthma and other ongoing respiratory problems, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis , and in people with heart failure . Health professionals often prescribe antibiotics for these patients to treat acute bronchitis and reduce the risk of pneumonia or other complications.

  • Drinking hot beverages can sometimes help with wheezing , especially those containing caffeine, which has been shown to temporarily relax the airways in people with asthma.

  • Follow your healthcare provider's instructions to stay hydrated and relaxed. Don't put pressure on yourself, even if it means taking a break from work and transferring household and other responsibilities to others. Get enough sleep too: Studies have shown that sleep helps immune cells fight infection.

  • Acute bronchitis caused by a virus resolves on its own without treatment. For bronchitis caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed, but this is not always recommended. Aside from concerns about antibiotic resistance, studies have shown that antibiotics are only marginally effective for bronchitis. In one study, they reduced the amount of time a person had symptoms by just half a day.

  • Bronchitis requires special attention during pregnancy because of concerns about the health of the developing fetus and changes in the mother's immune system, which can increase susceptibility to infections. In rare cases, a viral infection can lead to complications during pregnancy that can affect both the father and the baby. If you are pregnant and develop bronchitis, tell your doctor immediately so they can determine the best way to relieve your symptoms and monitor the progress of the infection.

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