Is Bronchitis Contagious?

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It’s important to establish that bronchitis, or inflammation of the bronchial tubes of the lungs, can present as either acute or chronic. Acute bronchitis is a short-term illness that can be caused by a virus, often the flu virus, or sometimes by bacteria. Chronic bronchitis is a long-term condition in which the bronchial tubes are perennially inflamed, mostly due to damage from smoking. Chronic bronchitis is not contagious, but acute bronchitis, with its infectious origins, certainly is.

Coughing and sneezing are the classic ways in which the virus or bacteria get passed around, but simply touching something that was touched by a sick person can also introduce the pathogens into your body. Your best bet is to try to stay away from people with acute bronchitis and wash your hands if you’ve been near them. Using a hand sanitizer also works as long as no visible dirt is on your hands. Getting a flu shot also reduces your risk of transmission of the influenza virus. The very young and the elderly are more vulnerable to acute bronchitis than those in other age groups.

Not sure if what you’ve got is bronchitis? A persistent mucus-producing cough is a hallmark of acute bronchitis, as is wheezing and chest discomfort. Symptoms such as fatigue, fever, sore throat, and a clogged nose also go along with bronchitis. Because most cases of bronchitis are viral in origin, antibiotics won’t help. Instead, rest, hydration, and over-the-counter fever reducers are likely to be prescribed, as is a cough medication if your doctor feels it’s warranted.