Bronchitis Treatment

Chronic bronchitis cannot be cured: treatment concentrates on slowing disease progression and providing symptom relief. Different treatment strategies and medications are used depending on individual need and the stage of the disease. No matter how severe chronic bronchitis symptoms may be, however, the treatment most often prescribed to smokers is clear: quit smoking.

The Best Treatment: Quit Smoking

Smokers have high incidence rates of chronic bronchitis and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) compared with nonsmokers. Once people quit smoking, chronic bronchitis symptoms lessen and the disease’s progression slows.

Most smokers are well aware of the health risks associated with smoking. Smokers are equally aware just how difficult it is to quit smoking. When you decide to quit smoking, don’t try to do it alone. Smokers can get help and support from their family members and friends. Some smokers find it easier to quit smoking if they do so with others: support groups for smokers trying to quit are available in many areas.

Ask your doctor to help you quit. Some medications, including nicotine “patches,” and some antidepressants, can help you quit smoking. If you’re living with chronic bronchitis, quitting is the best treatment available.

Bronchodilator Therapy

Inhaled bronchodilators, the same medications used in the treatment of asthma, may also be used to alleviate bronchitis symptoms. Bronchodilators allow the airways to expand, making it easier to breathe. The medications also stimulate the muscles responsible for breathing. Examples of inhaled bronchodilator medications include beta-agonists, ipratropium bromide, and theophylline.

Anti-Inflammatory Medications

Anti-inflammatory corticosteroid medications are sometimes used to alleviate chronic bronchitis symptoms. Clinical trials have proven that inhaled steroids are useful in some patients for the treatment of COPD, especially in high doses.

Long-term use of high-dose corticosteroid medications can produce a number of severe side-effects, such as osteoporosis and a weakened immune system.

Clinical trials are investigating the effectiveness of other anti-inflammatory medications for bronchitis treatment. A group of medications known as phosphodiesterase inhibitors is currently being evaluated for bronchitis treatment, and may one day offer an alternative treatment to steroids.

Mucolytic Drugs

Mucolytic medications break up mucus, making it easier to clear the bronchial tubes. Mucolytic medications such as N-acetylcysteine and guaifenesin are sometimes used in the treatment of chronic bronchitis.

COPD Treatment Strategies

When chronic bronchitis coexists with emphysema, the resulting set of symptoms is referred to as COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. COPD treatment often employs the same strategies and medications as chronic bronchitis treatment. In addition, the following treatment options are often recommended.

  • breathing exercises
  • flu shots
  • oxygen masks
  • neumonia immunizations
  • lung transplants.


Beers, M. H.