Bronchitis is an upper respiratory infection where the infection has settled in the upper respiratory tubes called the bronchials. This usually has a significant cough with the production of phlegm. Most of the time bronchitis is caused by a viral infection and will not respond to antibiotics. bronchitis with significant shortness of breath, high fever, or in a patient with underlying pulmonary disease like asthma or emphysema may require antibiotics. Bronchitis often has phlegm that is green or yellow, this is still usually a viral infection and the color of the phlegm does not help decide whether antibiotics are needed.
Bronchitis is usually treated with a cough medication to help suppress the cough while thinning the mucous. Cheratussin with codeine is one example of an appropriate cough medication. Phenergan with codeine is a powerful cough suppressant but it may thicken the mucous and ultimately leading to more difficulty clearing the mucous and relieving the cough over the long term. The inflammation of the bronchial tubes during a bronchitis infection can lead to wheezing similarly to what is seen with asthma. In this situation a bronchial dilator like an albuterol inhaler may be helpful. These inhalers that are more often associated with asthma treatment can help resolve the symptoms of bronchitis. In some situations a short course of steroids may be used to help relieve the wheezing and shortness of breath.
A bronchitis that lasts more than 2 weeks or a bronchitis that has a high fever more than 101 is a reason to visit the doctor. Antibiotics may be needed. In addition, a prescription cough medication or inhaler may be helpful. Bronchitis with significant shortness of breath, especially if it is worsening after treatment is an indication to go to the emergency room.
The symptoms of bronchitis typically improve 24-48 hours after treatment is begun. It often can take 1-2 weeks to completely recover but there should be improvement after 1-2 days. If there is not improvement, a return visit to the doctor may be warranted. It is possible that antibiotics may be needed or that the bronchitis is turning into a pneumonia.