Bronchitis is a condition that arises from an inflammation in the lining of your bronchial tubes. Bronchitis may be either acute or chronic. Chronic bronchitis is a much more serious condition that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is common among smokers. Acute bronchitis commonly develops from an upper respiratory infection such as a cold. There are over-the-counter and prescription medications that can help treat and ease the symptoms of bronchitis.
The signs and symptoms of both acute and chronic bronchitis include coughing with mucus, wheezing, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, fatigue or a small fever.
According to the Mayo Clinic, acute bronchitis usually improves on its own within a few days. However, if you have repeated bouts of bronchitis, you may have chronic bronchitis, which requires medical attention. Treatment for bronchitis involves minimizing your symptoms and making breathing easier.
In most instances an over-the-counter cough suppressant and acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol), ibuprofen (e.g., Advil, Motrin) or aspirin can treat your symptoms of bronchitis. This along with plenty of rest and fluids may be enough to remedy your condition. However, sometimes your doctor may prescribe medications.
Antibiotics generally aren’t an effective treatment for bronchitis since it normally develops from a viral infection. However your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic if he or she suspects that you have a bacterial infection.
Antibiotics may also be appropriate, for patients with a chronic lung condition or who smoke, as a stopgap measure to avoid a secondary infection.
The Mayo Clinic says it’s generally not a good idea to hold back a cough that brings up mucus. Coughing helps eliminate irritants from lungs and airways.
An over-the-counter cough suppressant may be necessary when excessive coughing keeps you awake and interrupts much needed rest. Your doctor may also suggest a prescription-strength cough medicine.
Medication and Special Circumstances
People with bronchitis who already suffer from asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may require an inhaler and additional medications to lessen inflammation and open restricted lung passages.
The American Lung Association (ALA) says bronchodilator medications relax and open air passages in the lungs. They can be inhaled or taken in pill form.
The ALA says in some cases steroids are used to help decrease inflammation in the airways.
As you recover from bronchitis there are some at home self-care methods to keep you as comfortable as possible. A humidifier provides warm, moist air that can ease coughing and loosen mucus. During cold weather you may want to wear a face mask outside if the temperature intensifies your cough and breathing problems.