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What are the Pros and Cons of Taking Antibiotics for Bronchitis?

Nicole Madison
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are both pros and cons to using antibiotics for bronchitis. As far as the pros are concerned, taking antibiotics for bronchitis can lead to the defeat of bacteria that have caused the infection and may even help ward off complications, such as pneumonia, in those who are prone to them. On the other hand, the cons also bear serious consideration. For starters, most cases of bronchitis are caused by viruses, which means taking antibiotics won't treat the illness. Additionally, taking antibiotics when they aren’t warranted may contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The primary benefit of taking antibiotics for bronchitis is the potential for successful treatment. When bronchitis develops because of bacteria, a person’s immune system may have difficulty fighting it or he may remain ill longer than expected. In such a case, a doctor may recommend that the patient take a course of antibiotics in order to fight the bacterial infection and feel better more quickly. It is important to note that some people start to feel better before they have finished a course of antibiotics. Patients must take all of the medication their doctors prescribed, however, in order to avoid allowing the bacteria to take control once more.

Antibiotics may also prove important in treating bronchitis when a person is prone to complications of respiratory infections. For example, a person who has a chronic condition that affects the lungs or the immune system may sometimes need antibiotic treatment in order to prevent complications of bronchitis. For instance, a doctor may recommend antibiotics to prevent the development of pneumonia in a person who is particularly vulnerable to it.

In many cases, the cons of taking antibiotics for bronchitis are more relevant for the average patient than the pros. This is due to the fact that most cases of bronchitis develop because of viruses. As such, antibiotics are ineffective for treating most cases of bronchitis because they cannot fight viruses. Sometimes, however, doctors do prescribe antibiotics for cases of bronchitis, even if they are not sure an infection developed because of bacteria. This is troublesome, as taking antibiotics unnecessarily contributes to the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Even when a person does need antibiotics for bronchitis, there some factors to take into consideration. For example, antibiotics may cause unpleasant side effects; some people experience nausea and diarrhea while they are taking antibiotics. Some women also develop yeast infections in relation to antibiotic use.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGeek writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By EdRick — On Dec 14, 2011

@jennythelib - "Bronchitis" is just a general term that means you have an inflammation. Inflammation can be caused by viral infection, bacterial infection, injury, irritation, etc.

You usually get it after a cold or flu, so I think that's what would have been contagious in the case or your coworker, as opposed to the bronchitis. Usually it's just caused by the same virus, but sometimes you can get a secondary infection; I guess your system is weakened and more vulnerable to bacteria.

In that case, bronchitis would be kind of like a sinus infection - related to the original illness, but with a totally different cause. You do generally need antibiotics for a sinus infection or for bacterial bronchitis. My son always gets sinus infections when he has a cold because he sniffles too much! So far, knock on wood, we haven't had to deal with bronchitis.

By jennythelib — On Dec 14, 2011

Maybe this is a dumb question, but how can the same condition be caused by either a bacteria or a virus? I mean, strep throat is bacteria, and chicken pox is a virus, and those are different diseases. How could bronchitis be either? Is bronchitis contagious? A person at work had it recently and I wasn't sure how far away I needed to stay!

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGeek writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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