Bronchitis is an infection that causes a cough. It happens when the tubes that carry air into the lungs, called the "bronchi," get infected.
Usually, bronchitis happens after a person gets a cold or the flu. The viruses that cause the cold or flu infect the bronchi and irritate them. People often wonder if taking antibiotics will help with their bronchitis. But the answer is no, because it is usually caused by a virus. Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses.
This page is about "acute" bronchitis. This is different from "chronic" bronchitis, which is an illness in smokers who have a long-lasting cough.
A nagging cough that can last up to a few weeks
Coughing up mucus that is clear, yellow, or green – Some people think green mucus means you have a bacterial infection but this is not always true
You might also have normal cold or flu symptoms, like a stuffy nose, sore throat, or headache. People with bronchitis do not usually get a fever.
Bronchitis almost always goes away on its own, although it can take a few weeks. Providers do not usually treat bronchitis with antibiotic medicines. That's because bronchitis is usually caused by a virus, and antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. Antibiotics will not help your bronchitis go away faster, and they can actually cause other problems. So it's not a good idea to take them if you don't really need them.
To feel better, you can treat your cold and flu symptoms. Different treatments you can try include:
Getting lots of rest and drinking plenty of liquids
Drinking hot tea
Sucking on cough drops or hard candy
Taking over-the-counter cough and cold medicines
Breathing in warm, moist air, such as in the shower, over a kettle, or from a humidifier
Taking a pain-relieving medicine if you have cold or flu symptoms like headache, muscle aches, or joint pain