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How Is Bronchitis Treated?

The main goals of treating acute and chronic bronchitis are to relieve symptoms and make breathing easier.

If you have acute bronchitis, your doctor may recommend rest, plenty of fluids, and aspirin (for adults) or acetaminophen to treat fever.

Antibiotics usually aren't prescribed for acute bronchitis. This is because they don't work against viruses—the most common cause of acute bronchitis. However, if your doctor thinks you have a bacterial infection, he or she may prescribe antibiotics.

A humidifier or steam can help loosen mucus and relieve wheezing and limited air flow. If your bronchitis causes wheezing, you may need an inhaled medicine to open your airways. You take this medicine using an inhaler. This device allows the medicine to go straight to your lungs.

Your doctor also may prescribe medicines to relieve or reduce your cough and treat your inflamed airways (especially if your cough persists).

If you have chronic bronchitis and also have been diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), you may need medicines to open your airways and help clear away mucus. These medicines include bronchodilators (inhaled) and steroids (inhaled or pill form).

If you have chronic bronchitis, your doctor may prescribe oxygen therapy. This treatment can help you breathe easier, and it provides your body with needed oxygen.

One of the best ways to treat acute and chronic bronchitis is to remove the source of irritation and damage to your lungs. If you smoke, it's very important to quit.

Talk with your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit smoking. Try to avoid secondhand smoke and other lung irritants, such as dust, fumes, vapors, and air pollution.

For more information about how to quit smoking, go to the Diseases and Conditions Index Smoking and Your Heart article and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's "Your Guide to a Healthy Heart." Although these resources focus on heart health, they include general information about how to quit smoking.

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March 1, 2011