How is bronchitis treated?

The treatment for bronchitis depends on what type you have. If you have acute bronchitis, you might not need any treatment. Or you might use over-the-counter drugs that break up mucus or that treat fever or pain. If you have a bacterial infection, your doctor might prescribe antibiotics.

If you have chronic bronchitis, treatment will be different. Chronic bronchitis, considered to be chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is not curable. Symptoms can be treated using a variety of methods, including drugs, oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation, surgery, or a combination of these. Your doctor might prescribe a mucus clearing device, also called an airway clearance device, to help you bring up mucus easily.

What medications are used to treat chronic bronchitis/COPD?

Drug classes that may be used to treat chronic bronchitis/COPD include:

  • Antibiotics to treat worsening coughs, breathlessness, and mucus production caused by infections.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as corticosteroids (also called steroids), to reduce swelling and mucus output. Steroids can have many different types of side effects, including swelling in feet and hands, mood changes, increased appetite and weight gain, trouble sleeping, and more serious ones such as diabetes, higher risk of infections, osteoporosis, and cataracts.
  • Bronchodilators to keep muscles around the airways relaxed so that airways stay open. There are long-acting and short-acting bronchodilators. Short-acting products are often called rescue drugs because they act quickly, but wear off in a couple of hours.
  • Combination drugs that contain a mix of steroids and long- or short-acting bronchodilators

How can I take care of myself?

If you have bronchitis, you might consider these home remedies:

  • Drink fluids every one to two hours, unless your doctor has restricted your fluid intake.
  • Rest.
  • Don't smoke. Stay away from all kinds of smoke.
  • Relieve body aches by taking aspirin or acetaminophen.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions on ways to help you clear your mucus.
  • If you have a cough that is severe or keeps you from sleeping, your doctor may prescribe a cough medicine to suppress (or quiet) your cough. If you have a dry cough or difficulty coughing out the mucus, your doctor may also prescribe an expectorant to help loosen and cough out the mucus.
  • If you have a moist, productive cough (with mucus), note how often you cough, as well as the color and amount of the sputum (mucus). Report this to your doctor.
  • Use a humidifier.
  • Try herbal teas or lemon water with 1-2 tablespoons of honey to provide comfort.

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