Antibiotics for Bronchitis & Pneumonia

Bronchitis is the swelling of the tubes leading to lungs and pneumonia is severe infection of lungs. Both bronchitis and pneumonia are commonly caused by bacteria or viruses and are characterized by a fever, headaches, a cough with thick mucus, difficulty in breathing and pain in the chest. Both conditions are serious, especially in the very young and the very old. Antibiotics are the drugs of choice to treat bacterial bronchitis and pneumonia, although they are ineffective when a virus is responsible for the condition.

A woman sick in bed with tea and honey and lemon on her bedside table. Credit: pojoslaw/iStock/Getty Images


Macrolides such as azithromycin, erythromycin, or clarithromycin prevent the growth of bacteria by inhibiting protein synthesis within the bacterial cell. According to "The New York Times" Health Guide, patients with mild bronchitis and pneumonia can be treated at home with oral macrolides along with plenty of rest and fever medications. However, if the condition of the patient is severe, hospitalization may be required and the intravenous administration of the antibiotics may be required.

The macrolides are usually prescribed for seven to 21 days and should be taken every six to eight hours. Common side effects of macrolides include an upset stomach, a skin rash, wheezing and itching.


Fluroquinolones are a group of antibiotics that inhibit the process of replication of bacterial genetic material, thereby preventing reproduction of bacteria. Fluoroquinolones are divided into two groups and are a common choice to treat bronchitis and pneumonia. The older group includes ciprofloxacin, norfloxacin and oflaxicin while the newer group includes gemifloxacin and levofloxacin.

As with macrolides, fluoroquinolones can also be administered orally or intravenously, depending on the condition of the patient. According to the Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals, about 5 percent of patients taking fluoroquinolones may suffer from gastric disturbances. More serious side effects such as seizures are rare.


Beta-lactams are penicillin like antibiotics that prevent the growth of the bacterial by disrupting their cell wall which are essential for their structure and function. Although traditional penicillins are ineffective to treat bronchitis and pneumonia, penicillin derivatives such as amoxicillin and amoxicillin-clavulanate are fairly effective.

Beta-lactams can also be given orally or intravenously and the duration of the treatment depends on the severity of the condition. In fact, a study reported in the April 2004 edition of the "British Medical Journal" states that in children with non-severe pneumonia treatment with oral amoxicillin for three days was as effective as five days.

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