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How Long is Bronchitis Contagious

How Long is Bronchitis Contagious

Bronchitis can be caused due to a variety of reasons like viral infection, bacterial infection, smoking, exposure to smoke, etc. As some cases of bronchitis are contagious, it is essential to be informed about this respiratory disease.
Madhura Pandit
Last Updated: Apr 13, 2018
All types of bronchitis are not contagious. It is contagious only if caused due to viral or bacterial infection. Acute cases of bronchitis are usually contagious.
Bronchitis is a respiratory disease characterized by inflammation of the bronchi or the branches of the trachea, due to virus or bacteria. Chronic bronchitis is a type of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The disease can affect people of any age group.

Is Bronchitis Contagious?
Well, the answer is yes and no! Only the type of bronchitis caused due to viral or bacterial infection is contagious. Only some cases of acute bronchitis are contagious; and not the chronic ones. Therefore, it is essential to find out the cause in order to determine whether it is contagious or not. Acute bronchitis is caused due to viral or bacterial infection. It spreads if a healthy person comes in contact with the bodily fluids of the person suffering from this disease. On the contrary, chronic bronchitis is caused usually due to smoking and other reasons, and hence, is not contagious. Chronic asthmatic bronchitis is not contagious.

What is the Contagious Period for Bronchitis?
Bronchitis is contagious as long as the symptoms are observed. It is essential to take immediate treatment if you observe any symptoms. Although the mucus clears and the symptoms reduce on taking antibiotics, bronchitis can be contagious as long as symptoms are observed. However, as maximum cases are caused due to viral infection, antibiotic treatment is not always used.

Is Bronchitis Contagious in Children?
Children and old people are more susceptible to acute bronchitis, than people belonging to other age groups. Bronchitis in children is very common, and hence, parents should be very careful and consult the doctor if any symptoms are observed.

How Long is Bronchitis Contagious after taking Antibiotics?
Antibiotics are prescribed to treat bacterial cases of bronchitis. After taking antibiotics, the infection usually subsides completely in 7-8 days. But, antibiotics are ineffective against viral infection and chronic cases of bronchitis. In minor cases, the infection resolves on its own. Once the symptoms subside completely, after completing the course of antibiotics, bronchitis is not contagious.

These are the frequently asked questions about bronchitis. Here is further detailed information about the disease, its causes, symptoms, treatment methods, and preventive measures.

What is Bronchitis

Causes
As the inner membranes of bronchi are infected or inflamed, there is an excess secretion of mucus, that can clog the passages. Acute bronchitis is caused due to virus and bacteria. 90% of the acute cases are caused due to viral infection. The influenza virus, rhinovirus and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) are the viruses causing bronchitis. Whereas, bacterial bronchitis is caused due to Streptococcus pneumoniae (Pneumococcus), Mycoplasma, etc. Streptococcus pneumoniae usually causes protracted bacterial bronchitis.

On the other hand, chronic bronchitis can develop following a prolonged inflammation or infection to the airways or the bronchi. Factors like smoking, constant exposure to industrial pollutants, and cold air can lead to chronic bronchitis. One should remember that secondhand smoking (also known as passive smoking) is also one of the major causes of chronic bronchitis.

Symptoms
One of the most distinguishing signs of bronchitis is expectorating cough that produces excess thick, yellowish phlegm. The other symptoms include:
  • Sore throat
  • Slight fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Headache
  • Cough followed by chest pain
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Runny nose

Treatment
If you observe any of the aforementioned symptoms, you should immediately see the doctor. A chest X-ray helps in diagnosing bronchitis in people. The treatment differs according to the type and underlying cause of bronchitis. In case the infection is caused due to bacteria, antibiotics will be used. Similarly, taking complete rest, drinking lot of fluids, and using vaporizer may help in treating viral cases quickly. The doctor will prescribe medication to treat other accompanying symptoms like cough, fever, chills, etc. On the other hand, chronic bronchitis treatment involves use of Bronchodilators, medication, steroids, therapies, etc.

Prevention
As we have just seen that bronchitis is contagious, it is wise to follow preventive measures to avoid it.

Vaccination is the best method of preventing bronchitis.

As the infection is contagious, it is recommended to stay away from people suffering from any respiratory disorders.

It is also recommended to avoid sharing personal articles of daily use like towels, toothbrush, etc., food or clothes with people suffering from any respiratory disease.

Stop smoking and try to reduce exposure to industrial irritants, secondhand smoke, etc., in order to avoid chronic bronchitis.

Lastly, following basic methods of cleanliness and hygiene like washing hands, using hand sanitizers, etc., help in preventing viral infections to a great extent.

Bronchitis is a serious respiratory disorder and hence, timely diagnosis and treatment is essential. Lastly, remember the old saying, prevention is better than cure! Therefore, following the aforementioned precautionary measures can help in preventing the disease to a great extent.

Disclaimer: This article is only intended to provide information; and is not to be used to substitute proper medical advice.