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Bronchitis: How Contagious Is It Exactly?

Dr. Sunil Maruti Waghmare 85% (10 ratings)
MBBS Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, MD - Pulmonary Medicine
Pulmonologist, Pimpri-Chinchwad  •  8 years experience
Bronchitis: How Contagious Is It Exactly?

You are out in public, and a person next to you is incessantly coughing. It is natural to be worried if it is bronchitis and the possibility of you getting infected. Read on to know about the condition and if it is really contagious. Bronchial tubes are the airways in the lungs, and when they are inflamed due to an infection or an underlying medical condition, it results in bronchitis. Bronchitis can be acute or chronic and depending on the cause, may or may not be contagious.

Types of bronchitis
Chronic bronchitis occurs when the airways in the lungs get irritated again and again. Though it’s a severe health condition that requires medical attention, it is not as contagious as it occurs due to the exposure to certain chemicals, dust, cigarette smoke or smoke from a fire, air pollutants that irritate the lungs.

On the other hand, acute bronchitis that usually lasts for one to three weeks is considered to be contagious because this particular type of bronchitis happens due to the flu or cold viruses. It is the infectious properties of the viruses causing it that makes it contagious.

Transmission
In the case of acute bronchitis, since it is caused mainly due to viral infections when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, the viruses get transmitted to others in the surrounding. Hence it can spread quickly.

Symptoms
Some of the common symptoms of acute bronchitis are a hacking cough, production of excessive mucus, shortness of breath, and feelings of discomfort in the chest. Note that as long as the infection is present, acute bronchitis remains contagious. Once the infection is gone, it is no longer contagious, though, the symptoms, like a persisting cough, may stay for several weeks afterward.

Prevention
Maintaining a healthy hygiene, such as washing hands regularly or keeping the surfaces clean, or using a handkerchief when coughing or sneezing can help in preventing the spread of the infection as well as getting affected with it. Also, taking flu vaccinations and quitting to smoke can also assist in preventing lung infections.

Treatment
For the majority cases of acute bronchitis, the condition is resolved by itself within a few weeks and antibiotics may not be an ideal treatment option if the acute bronchitis is caused by a virus. The most recommended treatment options that can quicken the recovery process are taking rest, opting for prescribed over-the-counter medications, drinking lots of fluids, inhaling the steam of hot water, whether from the shower or a bowl of hot water.

People who have asthma or chronic bronchitis sometimes may develop acute bronchitis as a result of further complications of their present lung conditions and not as a result of virus invasion. Therefore, the chances of such acute bronchitis being contagious are less than those caused by influenza viruses or bacteria.

Thus, acute bronchitis due to a viral infection is more contagious than chronic bronchitis that is due to an underlying medical condition like asthma and other lung diseases. With a few simple and effective measures, such contagious infections can be prevented.

In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!

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