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Bronchitis, Antibiotic Treatment (Adult)

Illustration showing the lungs and a close up view of a bronchial tube (bronchus).

Bronchitis is an infection of the air passages (bronchial tubes) in your lungs. It often occurs when you have a cold.

 Symptoms of bronchitis include cough with mucus (phlegm) and low-grade fever. Bronchitis usually lasts 7 to 14 days. Mild cases can be treated with simple home remedies. More severe infection is treated with an antibiotic.

Home care

Follow these guidelines when caring for yourself at home:

  • If your symptoms are severe, rest at home for the first 2 to 3 days. When you go back to your usual activities, don't let yourself get too tired.

  • Don’t smoke. Avoid being around the smoke of others.

  • You may use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control fever or pain, unless another medicine was prescribed for this. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease, talk with your health care provider before using these medicines. Also talk with your provider if you’ve had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding.

  • Your appetite may be poor, so follow a light diet. Drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluid every day. This will help you avoid dehydration. Fluids can include water, soft, drinks, juices, tea, and soup. Extra fluids will help loosen secretions in your lungs.

  • Over-the-counter cough medicines that contain dextromethorphan may help relieve cough and congestion. Decongestants may also help with this. Don’t use decongestants if you have high blood pressure.

  • Finish all antibiotic medicine. Do this even if you are feeling better after only a few days.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your health care provider, or as advised, if you don’t start to feel better after 3 days.

You should get a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine if you are 65 or older. This is also called a PCV or PCV13 vaccine. You should also have this vaccine if you have chronic asthma or COPD.

Talk with your health care provider about getting a pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV or PPSV23) if you got a PCV13 vaccine today. You should also get a flu shot (influenza vaccine) every autumn.

When to seek medical advice

Call your health care provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Fever over 100.4°F (38.0°C) for more than 3 days

  • Trouble breathing, or you have wheezing or pain with breathing

  • Coughing up blood or increased amounts of colored sputum

  • Weakness, drowsiness, headache, facial pain, ear pain, or a stiff neck 


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