Antibiotics slow or stop the growth of
bacteria or kill them.
If you have no other health problems,
experts recommend that antibiotics not be used for
acute bronchitis.1 Whether
your doctor prescribes antibiotics and what type depend on the type of
infection you have, your age, any other medical conditions you have, and your
risk of complications from acute bronchitis, such as
Research on antibiotics and acute
bronchitis reports that antibiotics reduce coughing slightly, but may cause side effects and contribute to antibiotic resistance.2
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:
Call your doctor if you have:
Different types of antibiotics have
different side effects. Common side effects include:
Studies have shown that people who take azithromycin or erythromycin along with certain common medicines may increase their risk of
sudden cardiac death.3, 4
See Drug Reference for a full
list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
The benefits of antibiotics for
acute bronchitis are small and must be weighed against the risk of side effects
and the possibility of antibiotic resistance.
If your doctor
prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just
because you feel better. You need to take the full course of
Although smokers with acute bronchitis receive
antibiotics more than nonsmokers, antibiotics are no more effective in smokers
than in nonsmokers.2
If you have
pneumonia or a chronic respiratory disease, such as
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),
cystic fibrosis, or
bronchiectasis, other antibiotics may be used.
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
CitationsWenzel RP (2012). Acute bronchitis and tracheitis. In L Goldman, A Shafer, eds., Goldman's Cecil Medicine, 24th ed., pp. 586–587. Philadelphia: Saunders.Wark P (2011). Bronchitis, search date March 2010. BMJ Clinical Evidence. Available online: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.Ray WA, et al. (2004). Oral erythromycin and the risk
of sudden death from cardiac causes. New England Journal of Medicine, 351(11): 1089–1096.Safety of Azithromycin (2012). Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, 54 (1392): 45. Also available online: http://secure.medicalletter.org/w1392a.
July 10, 2012
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Robert L. Cowie, MB, FCP(SA), MD, MSc, MFOM - Pulmonology
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