To contents
You are now at:  Homepage  > Practical advice  > Food and nutrition

Practical advice

Food and nutrition

Antibiotics: use and abuse for simple chest infections

Antibiotics: use and abuse for simple chest infections

A common winter infection, acute bronchitis is usually benign. As it is of viral origin most of the time, antibiotics are not useful.

What is acute bronchitis?

It is a temporary inflammation of the respiratory system, usually due to a viral infection. It causes:

  • a dry and painful cough that becomes productive of phlegm,
  • usually a low fever,
  • sore throat, stuffy nose, aches and pains, headaches

Should I take antibiotics?

Most of the time, acute bronchitis is of viral origin. That is why antibiotics are useless, as they are not effective against viruses. They do not lower fever or speed up healing as they do not treat the cause of the infection. They also do not prevent spread of the infection.

If your phlegm is coloured, it is not a sign of a bacterial superinfection.

An infection of the bronchi will disappear after a few days, but the cough can linger longer.

Can I take medication to feel better?

There is no treatment for acute bronchitis if it is viral, but it is possible to ease symptoms with a cough suppressant in case of dry cough and bronchial mucolytics for productive coughs, anti-pyretics for fever, analgesics for aches and nose drops and throat lozenges to ease sore throats.

When are antibiotics indicated?

Antibiotics are sometimes necessary:

  • if you have a chronic respiratory illness, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • if you have an associated illness (cardiac failure, renal failure, cancer, cirrhosis, etc.)
  • for elderly and fragile people.
Publication date:   5/12/10

About us

Tallaght Medical Practice

Main speciality:
General Practice

Contact us

Related documents

Why Is my Cough Persisting?
Why Is my Cough Persisting?
Coughing is a normal means of clearing mucous from the lungs and bronchial tubes. However, cough can be a sign of infection or irritation and, if it persists, should be evaluated by a physician.
Read on
Emergency and service numbers

TLC-DOC is a service provided by local GPs, with the support of the HSE, and located in Tallaght Cross west across from Aldi Tallaght Rd, Cookstown, Dublin. Local GPs have formed a cooperative to provide out-of-hours care for their own patients. This service will provide GP appointments for urgent medical conditions on weekday evenings and weekends. 1890 20 22 24 Please do not ring this number before 6.00 pm Monday - Friday, or 10.00 Sat/Sun & Bank Holidays.

Click here for more details

Merck Manual of Medical Information (Home edition)

The Home edition of The Merck Manual of Medical Information is based on the world's most widely used textbook of medicine, but written in everyday language by around 300 outstanding contributors.
Merck Manual of Medical Information (Home edition)
The book covers many difficult medical concepts, but is written in everyday language.
Merck Manual Home Edition

This site should not be used as a substitute for medical consultation.