Chronic bronchitis is a severe and painful progression of bronchitis. To learn the risk of contagion with this form of bronchitis, read on…
Coughing, repeated blowing of the nose due to mucus collecting, problems in breathing .. these are common signs of bronchitis, an infection of the lungs. It is commonly associated with asthma sufferers or a bad cold. But what if such signs repeat themselves, over a period of time? And if so, is and for how long is bronchitis contagious? There are 2 main forms of bronchitis, acute and chronic. In this article, we take an in-depth look at the latter form, is chronic bronchitis contagious, and what can be done to ease this condition.
What is Chronic Bronchitis?
COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is a collective group of lung diseases, that hamper the respiratory system. An estimated 12.1 million Americans have some form of COPD. The 3 main conditions of COPD are chronic bronchitis, chronic asthma and emphysema. The word “chronic” is used here, to denote these conditions are usually permanent, and may worsen with time. The bronchi are the airways that allow for air passage into the lungs.
When these airways are swollen or inflamed, the passage itself constricts and becomes narrower, so less air can pass through into the lungs. This sort of inflammation also produces sputum or mucus. The mucus adds to the obstruction of the airways, and can cause severe bacterial infections in the lungs. This condition, on a whole, is termed chronic bronchitis.
Chronic bronchitis is primarily caused by cigarette smoking, bacterial or viral infections, and air pollution, and long-term fume inhalation. It can also appear as a symptom of asthma, tuberculosis, sinusitis and pulmonary emphysema. Is chronic bronchitis contagious? No. If you have chronic bronchitis, people around you, will not get infected. But you can get chronic bronchitis, if people around you smoke, and you end up inhaling a lot of second-hand smoke. As estimated 9.9 million Americans have been diagnosed, with chronic bronchitis.
A predominant characteristic of chronic bronchitis is a persistent cough, accompanied by spitting or blowing, out mucus. Other main symptoms are:
- Cyanosis – lips or skin might turn blue
- Dyspnea – breathing difficulties like shortness of breath, wheezing
- Edema – swollen feet or hands
- Mucus – large quantity, thick, white, green or yellowish green, pink or blood streaked colors
- Lung or respiratory illnesses
- Chest pains
- Heart failure
- Expectorating cough – a progressive deep cough, repeated occurrences, with sputum or mucus
These symptoms are similar to other lung infections and acute bronchitis, but their duration or persistence is the key factor in identifying chronic bronchitis. At least 2-3 months in a year, the above symptoms can occur, and this should repeat for 2 years.
Treatment & Diagnosis
During a diagnosis, the patient is first checked for any respiratory diseases. Breathing issues, like wheezing are confirmed during a physical test. Other tests to confirm extent and duration are blood tests, chest x-ray, spirometry and testing sputum samples. There is no cure for chronic bronchitis, but medications, like corticosteroids, are prescribed to help cope with the symptoms. Since chronic bronchitis is bacterial in nature, antibiotics are given.
Patients with chronic bronchitis are highly vulnerable to other infections. Doctors normally administer a pneumococcal vaccine and annual flu vaccine, to prevent infection risk. The best treatment, is to stop smoking. Avoid second-hand smoke at all costs. Air pollutants and fumes also aggravate the condition, so clean and pure surroundings help ease chronic bronchitis. Diet and fitness also help curb the effects. Eat foods rich in vitamin C. Exercise more regularly.
Prevention is better than cure, so quit smoking for your sake and for others around you, as well. Acute bronchitis can progress into chronic, if ignored or ill-treated, so don’t dismiss your colds and sniffles.