Woman sitting with a blanket, coughing and holding chest.

Do I Need Antibiotics for Bronchitis?

Why You Probably Don’t Need Antibiotics for Bronchitis

Most bronchitis in individuals with otherwise healthy lungs is caused by a virus. Most coughs in adults and children are caused by viral infections of the respiratory tract. Antibiotics should be used for a cough only if the individual has pneumonia due to bacteria or tests positive for pertussis (whooping cough). NOTE: Patients with severe long-term lung disease sometimes get a bacterial infection when they get bronchitis, and may need antibiotics.

Symptoms of Bronchitis

  • Fever, cough, and chest pain.
  • Coughing up mucus that may be yellow or green. This does not mean it is a bacterial infection.
  • Wheezing may occur. NOTE: With viral bronchitis, 1 in 2 people still cough after 2 weeks. 1 in 4 people still cough after 3 weeks.

Management of Bronchitis

  • Drink plenty of fluids such as water.
  • Cough suppressants may help older children and adults.
    NOTE: Do not give these products to infants or children under the age of six years.
    NOTE: Cough syrup might also contain fever reducing medication. Read labels carefully and check with your pharmacist or doctor to avoid overdosing.
  • Plain cough drops or lozenges may help older children and adults. Avoid antibacterial cough drops because they can lead to antibiotic resistance.
    NOTE: Cough drops should not be given to children less than six years of age because of the risk of choking.

In British Columbia, you can call HealthLink BC (at 8-1-1) or visit if you need advice or are unsure of the best course of action.

Speak to your primary health care provider if you are worried by the way your child is behaving, if they are having trouble breathing, they have worsening symptoms.

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