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J Fam Pract. 1998 Jun;46(6):469-75.

Treatment of acute bronchitis in adults. A national survey of family physicians.

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Department of Family Practice and Community Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas 75235-9067, USA.



The purpose of this study was to determine how family physicians in the United States treat acute bronchitis in an otherwise healthy adult.


A 33-item questionnaire on the diagnosis and treatment of acute bronchitis was mailed to a random sample of 500 physicians who are members of the American Board of Family Practice.


Thirty-two of the 500 sampled physicians could not be located by mail; 265 of those who received the questionnaire responded. The response rate was 57% (265/468). Sixty-three percent of responding physicians indicated that antibiotics are their first choice of treatment for the otherwise healthy, nonsmoking adult with acute bronchitis. The decision to use antibiotics as the first choice of treatment did not vary by physician's sex, age, years in practice, practice location, practice type, or percentage of HMO patients. Only 6% of responding physicians reported using beta 2 agonist bronchodilators as their first choice of treatment. Physicians in this study stated that they prescribe an antibiotic 75% of the time in treating nonsmoking patients with acute bronchitis (first choice or otherwise). If the patient is a smoker, physicians reported that they prescribe antibiotics 90% of the time (F = 110.25; df = 1; P > .0001). Physicians reported that for patients who smoke it takes longer for coughs to totally resolve and longer for them to return to a normal activity level than for nonsmokers.


Family physicians report that antibiotics are their most common treatment for acute bronchitis in the otherwise healthy adult. Previous clinical trials have shown only marginal improvement in symptoms when patients with this condition are treated with an antibiotic. With antibiotic resistance emerging as a major global health problem, it is essential that other methods of treatment be evaluated.

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