Bronchitis is a medical problem, concentrated in the bronchial tubes of the respiratory system. The mucous membrane of the bronchial tubes (or simply bronchi) is inflamed, thus affecting the air passage leading to the lungs. Depending upon the length of the illness episode, it can be acute or chronic bronchitis. The former is caused by infections, while the latter is developed due to inhaled irritants. With this brief highlight, let's discuss whether bronchitis is contagious and for how long after antibiotics have been taken in the following paragraphs.
Which Type of Bronchitis is Contagious?
According to bronchitis etiology, short-term or acute condition usually follows a common cold, flu, or infections of the respiratory tract, while long-term or chronic bronchitis is manifested after exposure to respiratory irritants. Yes, acute bronchitis is contagious, and no, chronic cases are not. When bronchitis is caused by infections (viral or bacterial), then only it is transmittable to other healthy individuals. Since acute bronchitis is caused due to cold, flu, and alike infections, the pathogens can transmit in the same way like common cold and influenza viruses.
Time Period of Contagiousness
Bronchitis is most contagious in the first few days after the patient manifests notable symptoms. Considering the fact that viral infection is responsible for 90 percent of this acute respiratory disease, administering antibiotics is not always necessary. In other words, antibacterial therapy for bronchitis is applicable for only 5 - 10% patients. Also, antibiotics are recommended, if the person with acute bronchitis symptoms is suspected to have a secondary bacterial infection.
People having acute viral bronchitis recover after a few days, though dry cough may persist for a week or so. In general, patients diagnosed with acute bronchitis are given antibiotic treatment, if they remain symptomatic even after 10 - 14 days. Another identifiable sign of bacterial infection is productive cough with yellowish mucus. In addition to this, a sudden bout of acute bronchitis is not unusual in people having chronic bronchitis. For such a case, antibiotic medications are prescribed for prompt treatment. Even though the symptoms lessen after taking antibiotics, the contagiousness still continues for some days.
As we have seen above, bacterial bronchitis is contagious even after advocating antibiotic medications. Acute bronchitis remains contagious, and the infected patient can spread pathogenic microbes to others as long as he/she continues to cough or manifest symptoms. Thus, the same preventive measures are indicated to patients during and after the bronchitis treatment course. They should follow good respiratory hygiene, as directed by the doctor. It is best to remain indoors and take rest, until symptoms subside completely. That way, spreading of bronchitis can be minimized effectually.
The spreading of bronchitis can be prevented by adopting basic hygiene and personal cleanliness tips. Infected individuals should make sure that they use a hard towel to cover their mouth while coughing, and avoid sharing personal items (clothes, utensils) with others. Also, to avoid exacerbation of acute bronchitis to chronic cases, it is of utmost importance to quit smoking and minimize inhalation of pollutants as far as possible. With proper care from the patient's side, managing the symptoms and bronchitis containment can be easily achieved.