Top 10 Signs of Bronchitis
Prescribing antibiotics for bronchitis has been a normal course of action for decades, but research has proven it unnecessary and even harmful. Antibiotics, which destroy infection-causing bacteria, have saved countless lives since their discovery – but bronchitis is actually caused by a virus, not a bacteria.
What Is Bronchitis?
Bronchitis is the inflammation of the bronchial tubes that transport air into the lungs. When the bronchial tubes become inflamed, a person may experience a number of symptoms.
- Coughing (with or without mucus)
- Chest Congestion
- Difficulty Breathing
- Sore Throat
- Fever, Chills, Body Aches
Acute bronchitis typically lasts for a few weeks with a cough that may linger for several more weeks after the other symptoms have abated. It ordinarily develops along with a common cold and is almost always caused by cold viruses that migrate into the bronchial tubes. Very rarely, acute bronchitis is caused by a fungal infection or by stomach acids that enter the bronchial tubes as a result of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, may persist for months or years. Symptoms may clear up only to return after a short time. Such chronic bronchitis is caused – and exacerbated by – cigarette smoke or environmental pollutants like factory smoke or airborne chemicals. Regardless of any treatment method, chronic bronchitis is likely to continue until the irritant is removed.
Why to Avoid Antibiotics for Bronchitis
Bronchitis is almost never caused by a bacteria, which makes antibiotics completely ineffective at best. Just like when a person has the common cold, the body’s immune system will successfully fight the bronchitis-causing virus. Once the virus is gone, the bronchial tubes will heal and symptoms will go away.
Some doctors prescribe antibiotics for bronchitis because they say their patients expect or demand them, but it’s important for patients to consider the full consequences of taking a course of antibiotics when it isn’t truly needed.
Not only will bronchitis last just as long whether or not antibiotics are used, all antibiotics have unpleasant side effects. Along with the coughing, wheezing, sore throat, and fever of bronchitis, a person taking antibiotics may experience:
- Skin Rash
- Yeast Infection
Some antibiotics may cause adverse reactions if taken with other prescription medications. At least one study has shown that the antibiotic erythromycin taken with certain medications will increase a person’s risk of death from sudden cardiac arrest. Several antibiotics reduce or completely eliminate the effectiveness of birth control pills.
Without Antibiotics, How Is Bronchitis Treated?
The best treatment for bronchitis is getting plenty of rest and staying hydrating by drinking water or 100 percent fruit juice. Chest congestion and coughing can sometimes be relieved by using a cool mist humidifier or sitting in a steamy bathroom for around 15 minutes. The high humidity can help to break up mucus inside the bronchial tubes.
Fever and discomfort can be reduced by taking over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. For a dry cough, an over-the-counter cough suppressant (dextromethorphan) may help, but doctors recommend avoiding cough medication for a productive cough that brings up mucus.
If a person experiences wheezing, a doctor may prescribe asthma medication to help open the bronchial tubes and make breathing easier.
While it’s best to avoid antibiotics for bronchitis, if a doctor has prescribed them, they should be taken exactly as directed. The entire course should be completed even if symptoms lessen or go away before the antibiotics are finished.
As with any illness, check with your health care provider for more information. If you or anyone you know has symptoms of bronchitis or may have been exposed to any communicable illness, seek professional medical help.