Antibiotics are unnecessary for the treatment of acute bronchitis, say researchers from the Virginia Commonwealth University.
For years, doctors have prescribed antibiotics for the treatment of acute bronchitis, a common condition caused by inflammation in the tubes leading to the lungs. But antibiotics do nothing to treat the underlying cause of the disease, according to new research.
"Bronchitis is almost always caused by a virus," wrote Dr. Richard Wenzel in his study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. However, since antibiotics can only kill bacteria, it does nothing to shorten or lessen the effects of this disease, according to his study.
But antibiotics are prescribed for up to 80 percent of patients who are diagnosed with bronchitis, says Wenzel. "We have a habit of prescribing a lot of medication," he said. While this causes an unnecessary expense for the patient, taking antibiotics without cause can also cause unnecessary side effects such as abdominal pain, rash and may cause resistance, which would make you susceptible to more dangerous types of bacteria.
Wenzel suggests that doctors inform their patients of the risks of taking unnecessary antibiotics. "There is a long history of patients receiving antibiotics for acute bronchitis and they have come to expect receiving a prescription for treatment," he said "Physicians can help patients by not prescribing them antibiotics for acute bronchitis, saving them from potential side effects and unnecessary costs."
Acute bronchitis generally causes a cough, sore throat and sometimes a fever. Untreated, Wenzel says, it generally disappears in 5 to 10 days. If bronchitis turns into a long-term disease, however, it can be a sign of something more serious. Then, antibiotics can be very helpful to treat a prolonged fever or other symptoms that may be caused by a secondary bacterial infection.