What is Bronchitis?
Bronchitis or chest cold is when the bronchial tubes become inflamed. When these tubes get infected, they swell and mucus (thick fluid) forms inside them, which causes a person to cough. This often occurs after an upper respiratory infection like a cold. Most symptoms of acute bronchitis (chest pain, shortness of breath, etc.) last for up to 2 weeks, but the cough can last for up to 8 weeks in some people.
Chronic bronchitis lasts a long time and is more common among smokers. People with chronic bronchitis have a cough with mucus most days for 3 months per year for 2 consecutive years. Visit a specialist if you have been told you have chronic bronchitis.
What is recommended care for Bronchitis?
Antibiotics will rarely be needed, since acute bronchitis is almost always caused by a virus and chronic bronchitis requires other therapies. However, treatment may be prescribed to relieve symptoms. If your healthcare provider diagnoses you or your child with another type of respiratory infection such as pneumonia or whooping cough, antibiotics will most likely be prescribed.
Antibiotics Will Not Help if…
When bronchitis is caused by a virus or irritation in the air (like cigarette smoke), antibiotic treatment will not help it get better. Since acute bronchitis almost always gets better on its own, it is better to wait and take antibiotics only when they are needed. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed can be harmful.
Each time you or your child takes an antibiotic, the bacteria that normally live in your body (on the skin, in the intestine, in the mouth and nose, etc.) are more likely to become resistant to antibiotics. Common antibiotics cannot kill infections caused by these resistant germs.
Rest, over-the-counter medicines and other self-care methods may help you or your child feel better.
What do the reports tell me?
A large percentage, 82%, of persons with bronchitis received unnecessary antibiotics. Only 18% of adults in the Kentuckiana area with bronchitis were NOT given an antibiotic. You can use the quality reports on this site to compare how often doctors’ offices treat bronchitis the way it should be treated. The report shows how often patients did not get antibiotics for a chest cold. Higher scores are better.