Avoiding Antibiotics for Acute Bronchitis and Other Viruses

August 10, 2022

With the start of flu and cold season, we encourage you to talk with our members about taking antibiotics only when needed. Antibiotics don’t work against viruses, which are often the cause of acute bronchitis, colds and flu. They only treat certain bacterial infections.

Why It Matters

  • At least 28% of antibiotics prescribed each year in doctor’s offices and emergency departments aren’t needed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Antibiotics can cause side effects ranging from minor to severe, including rash, diarrhea, yeast infections and allergic reactions.
  • Antibiotics also give bacteria a chance to become more resistant to them, making future infections harder to treat. More than 35,000 people die each year in the U.S. because of antibiotic-resistant infections.

Closing Care Gaps

We track Avoidance of Antibiotic Treatment for Acute Bronchitis/Bronchiolitis (AAB) to help monitor and improve our members’ care. AAB is a Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS®) measure from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). It measures the appropriate treatment for acute bronchitis/bronchiolitis, meaning antibiotics weren’t prescribed.

Tips to Consider

The CDC suggests alternatives to antibiotics for acute bronchitis and other conditions, including:

  • Adequate rest and increased fluids
  • Using a clean humidifier or cool mist vaporizer
  • Inhaling hot shower steam or other sources of hot vapor
  • Throat lozenges for adults and children age 5 years and older
  • Over-the-counter medications to treat symptoms

Consider sharing resources with our members, such as these from the CDC. They explain that viruses, not bacteria, cause colds and flu.

The above material is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician or other health care provider. Physicians and other health care providers are encouraged to use their own medical judgment based upon all available information and the condition of the patient in determining the appropriate course of treatment. References to other third-party sources or organizations are not a representation, warranty or endorsement of such organization. The fact that a service or treatment is described in this material is not a guarantee that the service or treatment is a covered benefit and members should refer to their member guide or member contract for more details, including benefits, limitations and exclusions. Regardless of benefits, the final decision about any service or treatment is between the member and their health care provider.

HEDIS is a registered trademark of NCQA.