Best Medicine for Bronchitis?

Wake Forest Bronchitis is an infection, usually caused by a viral upper respiratory infection, that causes irritation and inflammation to the linings of the bronchial tubes.  Bronchitis can be either acute (temporary) or chronic (long-term) and typically includes a persistent, mucus-producing cough.  The best medicine for treating bronchitis primarily depends on whether the infection is acute or chronic in nature.  To better understand the treatment options available to patients, we will investigate the best medicines for both acute and chronic bronchitis.

Acute Bronchitis Medicines

Acute bronchitis often corrects on its own so adequate rest and fluid intake are often all that is needed to help a patient recover.  In other cases, medication is needed to effectively manage symptoms and may include:

  • Cough suppressants (antitussives): Because these medications simply suppress the urge to cough, rather than treating the inflamed linings of the bronchi, cough suppressants are not commonly used to treat acute bronchitis when the patient is still producing mucus when coughing (a “wet” cough).  Should a cough persist and become dry, cough suppressants can be used for up to two weeks to treat the symptoms.  Common cough suppressants include dextromethorphan (available over the counter) and codeine (prescription).
  • Expectorants: These medicines make breathing easier by helping to loosen up mucus from the airways making it easier to cough up and clear.  One of the most common expectorants is guaifenesin which is available over the counter.
  • Pain relievers: Besides the persistent cough, other symptoms of acute bronchitis can include a mild fever, headaches, and body aches.  Taking pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin, can help relieve these symptoms.
  • Antibiotics: Bronchitis is primarily viral in nature and as such, antibiotics are an ineffective treatment option.  In rare cases, bronchitis can be caused by a bacterial infection that may be treatable with antibiotics.  Antibiotic use should be thoroughly discussed with your medical provider as some have can have serious side effects.  Common antibiotics used to treat bronchitis include amoxicillin, azithromycin, doxycycline, and erythromycin.

Chronic Bronchitis Treatments

Because chronic bronchitis by definition is long-term or permanent, alleviating symptoms, slowing progression of the disease, and preventing complications are the primary treatment goals.  Often, a combination of treatments or therapies, including those associated with acute bronchitis, is required for chronic bronchitis.  Common medicines used to treat chronic bronchitis include:

  • Bronchodilators: Help patients breathe easier by relaxing and dilating (opening) the airways.  In addition to opening the airways, bronchodilators relieve bronchospasms, wheezing, and reduce chest tightness.  Available by prescription, these medications are typically inhaled.  Albuterol is one of the more common bronchodilators prescribed for treating bronchitis. It comes in the from of an inhaler.
  • Steroids: If chronic bronchitis symptoms are stable or slowly getting worse, inhaled steroids,  can be used to help minimize bronchial tube inflammation.  Should chronic bronchitis symptoms rapidly worsen, oral steroids such as prednisone may be beneficial. Similar to the use of antibiotics, there is ongoing research regarding the safety and efficacy of using steroids.  Some steroids can have potentially dangerous side effects and as such, should only be used under doctor supervision and recommendation.
  • Supplemental Oxygen: Chronic bronchitis can have long-term or permanent consequences for the lungs.  While not a medicine per se, chronic bronchitis patients may require supplemental oxygen as a result of the chronic long term damage in order to get adequate oxygen to the lungs. This should not be used without the supervision of a qualified medical professional.

More on Bronchitis : How Serious is Bronchitis?