What are empiric therapy regimens for acute bronchitis?

Updated: Jul 22, 2021
  • Author: Jazeela Fayyaz, DO; Chief Editor: John J Oppenheimer, MD  more...
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Patients typically present with a cough that lasts more than 5 days and may be associated with sputum production. Cough usually resolves within 3 weeks but may linger for up to 8 weeks.

  • Acute bronchitis is typically caused by viruses.

  • There is limited evidence to support the use of antibiotics for treating acute bronchitis in otherwise healthy adults. Antibiotic administration does not significantly alter presence of productive cough or activity limitations at follow-up doctor visits; however, there is a trend toward increased adverse effects with their use. [6]

  • There may be a limited role for antibiotic treatment of acute bronchitis in elderly patients with multiple comorbidities, although this typically is viral so the threshold should be low.

  • Symptomatic treatment includes the use of cough suppressants (dextromethorphan or codeine), mucolytics, and bronchodilators (albuterol), where appropriate

  • Patients without underlying heart or lung disease who present with a persistent cough lasting more than 14 days should be evaluated for pertussis.

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