Background: Based on observations that pulmonary function tests of patients with acute bronchitis resemble those of patients with asthma, it was hypothesized that a bronchodilator may be an effective form of treatment for patients with acute bronchitis.
Methods: Albuterol was compared with erythromycin in a prospective, randomized, double-blinded fashion. Participants were patients who presented to family physicians with a history of having a productive cough of less than 30 days' duration, no history or evidence of pneumonia, and no other pulmonary or cardiac disease. Patients completed a 7-day symptom diary and returned to their physician after 1 week of therapy for reexamination.
Results: Patients treated with albuterol were less likely to be coughing after 7 days of treatment than patients treated with erythromycin (41% vs 88%, P less than .05). This was true for both smokers and nonsmokers and in patients with purulent-appearing sputum. Trends toward an earlier improvement in cough and an improved feeling of well-being also were observed in the albuterol group. No differences between groups were found as to the length of time before patients returned to work, the length of time until patients resumed normal activities, or the overall improvement in patient well-being. Minor side effects were equal in both groups.
Conclusions: Oral albuterol may be more effective than commonly used antibiotics in relieving the symptoms of acute bronchitis.