Many of us have struggled with bronchitis, but it’s probably a bit more complicated than you think!  Here is Dr. Short’s advice for how to deal with that pesky, lingering cough often labeled as bronchitis:

For your symptoms I recommend trying to clean up the sinuses, as most often the sore throat and bronchial inflammation (“-itis”) is due to mucus draining from the sinuses into the lungs, called post-nasal drip. Patients often describe this as “moving into my chest” as that’s exactly what’s happening. Medications like Sudafed work quickly to dry this up. Sudafed is a brand, but the medication “pseudoephedrine” is the behind the counter medicine that actually works (you don’t need a prescription, just a form of ID). Don’t buy anything that doesn’t have “pseudoephedrine ER 120mg” on the label, “phenylephrine” is not what you want.

For aches and pains I recommend taking both ibuprofen 600mg WITH acetaminophen 1000mg every 8 hours, they work synergistically!

I also recommend drinking at least 3-4 liters of water a day to help thin the mucus, and it just feels good to be hydrated ya know?

Big caveat to note, here: some people should not take Sudafed/pseudoephedrine, acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil/Motrin). Please, please double-check with us before you embark on any of this self-treatment.

A quick explanation on why I don’t recommend any antibiotics for this:

There’s a big push in the medical community to not treat bronchitis with antibiotics, because multiple high-quality studies show they don’t shorten the duration or improve symptoms (even for bacterial bronchitis, weird I know). These recommendations come from the Infectious Disease Society of America, which is what sets the guidelines for all infectious disease specialists and all antibiotic use guidelines.

When people are put on antibiotics for bronchitis, symptoms tend to resolve by the end of the antibiotic course, making it seem like the antibiotics did the trick. But studies show that people that weren’t put on antibiotics have the exact same time to full recovery. The other big problem is it seems many urgent cares and primary care doctors care more about patient satisfaction than practicing good medicine. Patients have the expectation that they’ll get an antibiotic for bronchitis, and it takes more time to explain why it’s not necessary than it does to just prescribe it and make the patient happy. Us docs (should) know that prescribing antibiotics for most sinus infections and bronchitis not only doesn’t help, but will actually cause more harm than good in the long run. Not only the short term adverse effects from antibiotics, but also creating multi-drug resistant organisms in patients that get frequent courses of unnecessary antibiotics.
So in short, take medicine that will make you feel better, and avoid antibiotics that cause way more harm than good.


As always, reach out to us directly if you have questions or concerns about your health.


-Dr. Short