Bronchitis: when the phlegm quit it?



So I’ve got bronchitis. So has my whole family, actually, and so has most of the state as far as I can tell. Kicked in about two weeks ago with a day of fever and a couple nights of seriously epic coughing.

I went to the doctor (so no bitching about “WHY THE FUCK DON’T YOU JUST GO TO THE DOCTOR?”), and she said that she had the exact same bronchitis. She listened to me and didn’t hear any pneumonia, there was no shortness of breath, so she gave me a Zithromax prescription and said that it was up to me whether to use it, because it would get better on its own in a week to ten days. I really don’t like using antibiotics if I can possibly avoid it, so I didn’t use it. I did ask for some bodacious cough syrup and she gave me a Cheratussin prescription, which is basically codeine-laced Robitussin AFAIK. Worked like a charm.

So now here it is about two weeks later. And I’m still coughing. I’m not coughing much – maybe once every two hours. They’re quite… productive. The first cough of the morning is a yellowish-green loogey, and after that the sputum is nothing to write home about. Basically, I’m totally not bothered by it, and it is obviously getting VERY VERY SLOWLY better. I’m just wondering exactly how long I have to wait here.

I’m going to call the doctor later, but I also was wondering about your individual experiences. How long does the goddamn stuff take to clear out of the lungs altogether, on its own? Our realtor said it took her like six weeks (!!!). Should I just capitulate and nuke it with the antibiotics? Or, if it’s not really bothering me at all (which it isn’t – not coughing in bed at all anymore), should I just wait for my body to scour it out on its own?

(I just started exercising again too, after a long hiatus, so maybe that’ll boost the ol’ immune system by the necessary amount.)


I’m at about the two week mark myself, and just finishing up the antibiotics I was given. Still have some occasionally productive coughs myself. Feeling a lot better though.


Get some Mucinex.


Take the zith. Zith is great, knocks it right out of you in like 4 days flat.


I’ve got the Mucinex. Don’t even need it, plenty productive without it (at the once-per-two-hours level, like I said). It helped in the first week but now it’s at the point where I totally forget about it until suddenly COUGH COUGH HACK ptooey, whoa, it’s still there, wtf? And then I forget about it again. I mean, I’m not feeling sick at all otherwise.

So, anyone not taken the zith and gotten rid of it, or is everyone else on the same timetable I am?


I took the azithromycin, and still have it. I’m guessing what’s going around is a virus and all the zith in the world won’t help it.

Plus, now I feel guilty for probably adding to the world supply of resistant bacteria. Just wait it out.


Just keep in mind that the production of that mucus is a sign that your body is successfully fighting the infection. The reason its colored is that it contains all those nice dead bugs and white blood cells that have fallen during the battle inside your body.


Bronchitis lasts forever if you don’t take anything. If it doesn’t bother you, sure, stick with the coughing.


Jeez, you’re driving me to research, stusser.

Or J. Random Doctor #2.

Or else the CDC.


Well shit.

And to think docs in Canada are supposed to prescribe them only if actually needed. Guess I got the magic doctor who doesn’t do his research.


You could look at it that way. Or perhaps your doctor having gone to the trouble of attending medical school should be trusted more than Repo’s googling.


Well, I would imagine that the website of the CDC would be relatively trustworthy.

edit: But yeah. Some bronchitis can be bacterial in nature. Which is when they’d be used anyway.


Hoo boy, looks like I started the antibiotics-good-versus-evil flamewar. That really wasn’t my intent and I’ll get off the bus now.

Anyway, I got what I wanted, which is an answer to my question: I’ll wait it out, looks like four weeks is not uncommon nor cause for concern. If I’m still lunging it in two more weeks I’ll rethink things. Carry on, stusser vs. everybody.


I’m sure Repo’s googling covers just about everything you learn about treating colds in medical school-- and it does agree with Charles’ experience.


Or perhaps the consensus on the experts, MDs and otherwise, on communicable disease who have been trying for many years to get average family physicians to STOP PRESCRIBING ANTIBIOTICS WHEN THEY’RE FUCKING USELESS should be heeded over some hack who just want to write a script to get the patient out of her office as soon as possible.

She listened to me and didn’t hear any pneumonia, there was no shortness of breath, so she gave me a Zithromax prescription and said that it was up to me whether to use it, because it would get better on its own in a week to ten days.

Appallingly irresponsible and unethical. Get a new doctor.


I wonder how much of it is CYA from fears of patients who think “Hey, he wouldn’t even give me any antibiotics for it and it lasted for another week of agony! MALPRACTICE!”


skedastic - you’ve done this bit, or something like it, at least once before.

I’m skeptical of your opinion, but willing to consider evidence.

IIUC, your position is roughly:
Antibiotics and the like have effectively no net benefit for the treatment of the common flu. No net benefit meaning that the average patient does not recover faster, does not experience fewer systems, and does not reduce the chance of a mild flu escalating to something much more severe.

Is this in fact your position?

Could you please point to the studies backing up your position?

Also, if the above is your position, I would consider it a refutation if drugs were SOMETIMES useful to the sick individual (even if they are not ALWAYS useful to the individual, and/or are overprescribed). Of course, if the drugs harmed as many patients as they helped (adjusting for the degree of harm/help), that would support your position. Fair enough?


None of you are physicians, so this is a fairly stupid conversation. My father’s a doctor, my brother’s a doctor, my brother’s fiancee is a doctor, my best friend’s a doctor, my mother’s a nurse practitioner, and they give me zith for bronchitis and it works.


I did a bit of my own googling, and found that my symptoms correspond more to a bacterial bronchitis, thus the antibiotics.


A good start would be the evidence I cited in the other thread.

The consensus of experts is simply: for most patients, any potential benefits from antibiotics are dwarfed by the costs, including side effects and increased resistance. But family doctors don’t like to send patients off with nothing more than advice to get rest and drink lots of liquids, so a script gets written, and we are all worse off. For that reason, many professional organizations have been trying (with some, but limited, success) to reduce prescription of antibiotics for colds for some time. Antibiotics are contra-indicated for URIs and bronchitis by the CDC, for example. RepoMan’s doctor writing a prescription then telling him he could choose not to take it since he’ll be better in a few days anyways rules out the (small, assuming he’s an otherwise healthy non-elderly adult) possibility that he has symptoms which would admit a valid antibiotic prescription.

Of course, I do not have the expertise which would be conferred if I had relatives who are family physicians.