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British Lung Foundation
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how do I know if I need antibiotics

how do I know if to start my antibiotics .and steroids rescue pack .only just finished a rescue pack two weeks ago .

now coughing and chest feels tight again .I have bronchi but never cough anything up so cannot tell by colour of mucus ..consultant has stated I have a form of dry bronchi . had a few months without any symptoms now feel I am getting one infection after another but do not want to take medication if it is not needed ..why has first course not cleared it up ..

6 Replies

Hi Marlee, sorry you're feeling ill again. It happens for various reason - one might be that you weren't on the right antibiotic so the infection was suppressed but not quite got rid of.

I think you should see or speak to your GP before starting another lot of rescue meds.If it's a dry cough I suppose there's no chance of getting a sputum specimen tested?!

With bronchiectasis they recommend two weeks of antibiotics. Is this what you've been given?

Hope you feel better soon. Sue x


Hi if you are unsure please get in touch with a medical professional, and they will advise you. So sorry to here you are not well again, hope you feel better soon. Please let us know how you get on. Love Berny XXX 😊


Ive always understood rescue packs to be for emergency out of hours use, when you can't reach your GP or respiratory nurse. If you don't feel up to going out to an appointment, you could call the surgery and ask for a telephone appointment. Though it would be helpful for your chest to be listened to.

You should have a plan made with the respiratory nurse which should cover when to take these meds. Generally the rule, as told to me by my consultant and resp nurse, is that if two out of the following three are present, then you should start the rescue meds:

1. Feeling unwell

2. Increased sputum

3. Discoloured sputum

However, Im not sure this applies if you've already had an infection which hasn't cleared up - in this case I think you should speak to one of your medical team. As Sue says, it could be that you didnt have a long enough course of ABs, or could even be that it's not the right AB for whatever bacteria you have in your lungs. The steroids would probably sort the tightness so that if there's underlying infection you might be able to cough it up more easily, but please do speak to someone first as if there is infection, as opposed to just chest tightness (which i sometimes get on its own) the longer it is left, the worse it could become.

Take care :)


There is loads of stuff 'going around' - see your GP/respitory nurse. I've just had 3 infections in quick succession - several neighbours have had several & they haven't got a chest condition. Don't be afraid to see your GP.


I was in a cycle of infection - antibiotics and steroids - a week ok - infection and it went on for months. I saw a new doctor who suggested I wean off the steroids. I had my last infection at the start of November and weaned off (it seemed to take ages) and have been fine since - better than I have been for over a year.

It might be worth asking if you could try weaning off the steroids next time.

The doctor told me that the body makes steroid naturally but, when you take them as medication, it can be fooled into thinking it doesn't need to make any and that's why the infection comes back.

Anyway, I agree with those who say see your doctor again before you go back on the pills!


I had this and was repeatedly treated with amoxycillin which helped a little but.didn't completely resolve the chest infection.

I did a sputum and it came back with a bug and was treated with something else and now I feel fine with minimal symptoms.

You're probably not on the right abs so if you can't get a sputum then ask to try a different ab and see if that does the trick.



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