How Contagious Is Bronchitis? What Measures Should You Take?

How Contagious Is Bronchitis? What Measures Should You Take?

In the wake of COVID, and as we dive into peak flu season, people are on high alert when it comes to their health. If you come down with something during this time of year, it can be tricky to decipher what might be causing you to feel under the weather. When common colds are running rampant and flu season is in full effect, it’s important that you don’t discount bronchitis as another potential viral infection that could be the cause of your respiratory symptoms. Because many of these illnesses share symptoms, it is important to see a qualified medical provider to get an accurate diagnosis and subsequent treatment plan to get you back in good health. 

What Is Bronchitis? 

Bronchitis is defined as an inflammation of the lining of your bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from your lungs. Bronchitis presents in two primary forms: acute and chronic. A condition that is acute refers to being severe and sudden in onset. Acute bronchitis is usually the product of an untreated cold or respiratory illness that quickly worsens, and thick fluid called mucus forms inside the airway, making breathing difficult. A condition that is chronic means it has long lasting or persistent effects over time. Chronic bronchitis is long-term inflammation of the bronchi and is commonly associated with smoking. 

Is Acute Bronchitis Contagious?

Acute Bronchitis is a contagious viral infection so it is not able to be eradicated with antibiotics. Common symptoms include the following:

  • persistent cough
  • productive cough
  • wheezing
  • low grade fever
  • chills and body aches 
  • chest tightness
  • shortness of breath or breathlessness 
  • sore throat
  • headache 
  • sinus congestion
  • chest congestion 

Treatment For Bronchitis

Because bronchitis is viral in nature, home care is the typical course of action to treat this illness. Many people ask, “Is bronchitis contagious?” They also wonder, “When is bronchitis contagious?” The short answer is yes, and depending on the type of infection you have, most people are contagious at the onset of symptoms. 

Bronchitis is spread through a variety of pathways including airborne respiratory droplets (like coughing or sneezing), through saliva (i.e. kissing or sharing items old or beverages), via skin-to-skin contact, or by touching a contaminated surface like a countertop or doorknob.

Self-quarantining and using the following care plans will help you recover quickly.

1: Cough Medications 

Taking over-the counter cough medicines to alleviate symptoms is your chest line of defense. Oftentimes coughing is activated when laying in bed at night. Using the benefits of a cough suppressant medication will help promote a better night’s sleep. 

2: Inhaler

Your doctor may prescribe an inhaler to treat your bronchitis infection by reducing inflammation and opening narrowed passages in your lungs.

3: Avoid Irritants

If you are a smoker, refrain from smoking as the smoke will be the biggest lung irritant and prolong your recovery significantly. If you aren’t a smoker, avoid secondhand smoke to allow your lungs a chance to heal. 

4: Utilize a Humidifier. 

Bronchitis is aggravated by dry air. Using a humidifier will fill your lungs with the healing properties of warm, moist air to reduce coughing fits and loosens mucus in your airways. Be sure to keep the humidifier clean and use purified water in the tank to avoid mineral deposit buildup.

Untreated Bronchitis 

If left untreated, bronchitis can progress to more serious illnesses like pneumonia. Because of this, your healthcare provider may want to perform more extensive testing to monitor your symptoms so they don’t worsen and turn into a more life threatening situation. Three common tests that might be performed include chest X-rays, sputum tests, and pulmonary function testing (PFTs).

A chest X-ray is a radiological procedure that can help determine if you have pneumonia by showing inflammation in the lungs. 

Sputum, or the productive mucus from a cough, can be collected and tested to see if there are any bacteria present that could be treated with antibiotics or allergy medications. 

Pulmonary function tests can check for signs of asthma or emphysema, and are commonly performed for people with chronic bronchitis to monitor the condition for signs of progression.

During a pulmonary function test, the patient  blows into a spirometer, which measures how much air your lungs can inhale and how quickly they can exhale. 

BASS Medical Group 

At BASS Medical Group, we are dedicated to providing quality care to the community we serve. Our urgent care facilities and physicians are equipped to render the highest standard of care and provide fast and accurate diagnosis of the myriad of illnesses that present this time of year so you can be on your way to feeling your best. We can give you the support you need to recover from your acute or chronic bronchitis.