Most cases of acute bronchitis end on their own within a week, without the patient seeing a doctor or receiving treatment. There is no specific treatment for acute bronchitis itself, so if a patient does need treatment, the doctor will choose those that best relieve the symptoms the patient is experiencing.
Ingest plenty of fluids, and get plenty of rest. Using a humidifier to breathe warm, moist air may provide relief. Also, be sure to avoid cigarette smoke and other pollutants, such as chemical fumes.
While there is no medication that treats acute bronchitis specifically, certain over-the-counter medicines may provide some relief from symptoms:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- For asthma patients, using an inhaler can help wheezing and shortness of breath
Antibiotics are usually not helpful in most cases of acute bronchitis. This is because acute bronchitis is most often caused by a virus, while antibiotics are only effective against infections caused by bacteria. It is important not to use antibiotics unless they have been prescribed for a specific condition by your doctor. This is because using antibiotics when they are not needed, or when they are not an appropriate treatment, may lead to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics also carry the risk of side effects. However, there are rare cases where acute bronchitis may be caused by a virus, but accompanied by a bacterial infection. In these rare cases, a doctor would prescribe antibiotics to treat the accompanying bacterial infection.
Cough suppressants may not be helpful for patients with acute bronchitis. This is because they may prevent the lungs from clearing out any mucus or other irritants that should be cleared. However, if a patient is unable to sleep at night because of coughing, then a cough suppressant might help them to sleep.