Bronchitis - Treatment 

Treating bronchitis 

Most cases of bronchitis do not require treatment from a GP, and the symptoms can be easily managed at home.

There is no cure for chronic bronchitis, but healthy living will help. In particular, you should stop smoking, if you smoke.

Managing symptoms at home

If you have bronchitis:

  • get plenty of rest
  • drink lots of fluids  this helps prevent dehydration and thins the mucus in your lungs, making it easier to cough up
  • treat headaches, fever, and aches and pains with paracetamol or ibuprofen  although ibuprofen is not recommended if you have asthma 

There is little evidence that cough medicines work – read more about treating coughs. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has recommended that over-the-counter cough medicines should not be given to children under the age of six.

As an alternative to an over-the-counter cough medicine, try making your own mixture of honey and lemon, which can help soothe a sore throat and ease your cough.

Stop smoking

If you smoke, you should stop immediately. Smoking aggravates bronchitis and increases your risk of developing a long-term (chronic) condition.

Stopping smoking while you have bronchitis can also be the perfect opportunity to quit altogether.

Antibiotics

Although treatment from a GP is rarely necessary, there may be times when you should see one – read more about when to see your GP.

Your GP will not routinely prescribe antibiotics, as bronchitis is nearly always caused by a virus. Antibiotics have no effect on viruses, and prescribing them when they are unnecessary can, over time, make bacteria more resistant to antibiotic treatment. Read more about antibiotic resistance.

Your GP will only prescribe antibiotics if you have an increased risk of developing complications, such as pneumonia. Antibiotics may be recommended for:

  • premature babies
  • elderly people over the age of 80
  • people with a history of heart, lung, kidney or liver disease
  • people with a weakened immune system, which could be the result of an underlying condition or a side effect of a treatment such as steroid medication
  • people with cystic fibrosis

If you are prescribed antibiotics for bronchitis, it is likely to be a five-day course of amoxicillin, oxytetracycline or doxycycline.

Possible side effects of these medicines include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, but they are uncommon.

Chronic bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis is treated in the same way as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

For example:

  • a type of medication called mucolytics can be used to make mucus easier to cough up
  • an exercise programme known as pulmonary rehabilitation can help you cope better with your symptoms

Stopping smoking is also very important if you have been diagnosed with chronic bronchitis or COPD.

Read more about the treatment of COPD.

Page last reviewed: 14/07/2014

Next review due: 14/07/2016

Ratings

How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 434 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating

Comments

The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

June H said on 15 December 2011

this was helpful as I have bronchitis as I write this the cough is the worst culprit at the moment keep getting a slight chill and sometimes feel fluey but realised it isn't flu as I still want to eat.
It does help too if I drink hot tea. I have bought over counter medicine Asda's own brand of menthol buy it every year and it always helps never had to go see my dr about it as nature always takes its course and I keep warm and dry and try to avoid the cold wet elements if I do go out I wrap up well.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Useful links

Map of Medicine

See more about COPD by going to the Map of Medicine

Stop smoking

Help with quitting, including what your GP can do, local services and nicotine replacement therapies