Thursday, February 9, 2006
Welcome back Westminster Titans! Over the break I am sure that some of you experienced "acute bronchitis". It is one of the most common conditions that bring people to the doctor, particularly at this time of the year. Those of you who developed acute bronchitis over the break (or since your return to campus) could attest to the symptoms. Nasal congestion, sore throat, cough, fatigue, and malaise are of the most common initial symptoms during the first week. It then progresses to a persistent deep non-productive cough. This cough can make it difficult to sleep at night (for you and your roommate!).
As in the previous 'Doc Alerts' a virus is the most common culprit. Antibiotics treat bacterial, not viral infections and therefore are not helpful. However, doctors commonly prescribe antibiotics and patients get better shortly thereafter. Is this recovery a placebo effect or do antibiotics really help? Most respectable medical journals recommend doctors do not use antibiotics for a clear diagnosis of acute bronchitis, because by 'definition' it is a viral illness. The diagnosis is rarely clear and antibiotics are commonly accepted as a treatment option.
What should you do if you think you have acute bronchitis? If it is just a persistent non-productive annoying cough for less then 3 weeks, then first try over the counter cough and cold medications like Robitussin DM. Also, give your body what it needs to fight the infection by drinking lots of water (> 8 glasses/ day), and get extra rest. Fever (temperature > 100.4), cough greater then 3 weeks, pain, or any additional symptoms come and see us at the Student Health Center or call your family doctor. We will give you additional tips on fighting infections and determine if you need antibiotics and/or additional testing to role out more serious conditions like pneumonia or lung disease.
For additional information on acute bronchitis: http://familydoctor.org/677.xml
James Gardner III, M.D.