Fighting chest colds and bronchitis

We’re about to enter cold and flu season. There’s a good chance you or someone in your family may develop a chest cold and cough this winter. If you get sick, call your doctor’s office, and find out what you can do at home to ease symptoms without medication. Doctors know that sick patients may ask for strong medicines like antibiotics, but there are concerns with taking these drugs too often.

These days, doctors know that both adults and children should avoid using antibiotics to treat routine winter colds or bronchitis. The worst thing that could happen is that patients develop a resistance to antibiotics. This means the antibiotics will no longer work when we really need them to because patients have often taken them when milder treatments would have helped.

Some at-home treatments to relieve a chest cold include hot, steamy baths and showers to reduce congestion; sipping hot tea with honey to ease coughing; and drinking a lot of clear liquids to keep your body hydrated to fight disease. Over-the-counter medications are often very helpful.

The chest cold and bronchitis must run their course and will usually go away in seven to 10 days. If you visit your doctor for a routine chest cold, talk with them. Let them know that you are willing to look into other treatments and want to avoid using strong medications like antibiotics. Trust that your doctor will prescribe antibiotics and other stronger medications only when it is necessary for you and your family.

Dr. Beane is vice president and medical director at Healthfirst. For more tips on leading a healthier lifestyle, visit the Healthfirst Healthy Living website at

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