Preventing and Treating Bronchitis

Jan 7, 2022 | Everyday Health

Cough keeping you up at night? Soreness in your chest and feeling tired? You could have acute bronchitis, but be aware: an antibiotic will not help you get better.

What is Acute Bronchitis? 

Bronchitis occurs when the airways of the lungs swell and produce mucus. That’s what makes you cough. Acute bronchitis often called a “chest cold,” is the most common type of bronchitis. The symptoms last less than 3 weeks and include: 

  • Coughing with or without mucus production
  • Fatigue
  • Soreness in chest
  • Mild headache
  • Mild body ache
  • Sore throat
  • Watery eyes

Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a virus and often occurs after an upper respiratory infection. Bacteria can sometimes cause acute bronchitis, but even in these cases, antibiotics are NOT recommended and will not help you get better. It is important to seek professional medical care if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms: 

  • Temperature of 100.4°F or higher
  • Cough with bloody mucus
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Symptoms that last more than 3 weeks
  • Repeated episodes of bronchitis


Acute bronchitis usually gets better on its own—without antibiotics. Antibiotics won’t help you get better if you have acute bronchitis. Some ways to help you feel better are: 

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Use a clean humidifier, cool mist vaporizer, or saline nose drops to relieve a stuffy nose.
  • Breathe in steam from a bowl of hot water or shower.
  • Suck on lozenges.
  • Use honey to relieve cough for persons at least 1 year old.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist about over-the-counter medicines that can help you feel better.

Taking acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or a cold and cough medicine can also help with your symptoms.


There are a handful of ways that can help with the prevention of acute bronchitis. This includes: 

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Make sure you and your child are up-to-date with all recommended vaccines.
  • Don’t smoke and avoid secondhand smoke, chemicals, dust, or air pollution.
  • Always cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Keep your distance from others when you are sick, if possible.


Acute bronchitis is not fun to deal with, but it will usually pass on its own. If you believe you may have acute bronchitis – give your doctor a call today.