Is Bronchitis Contagious?

What is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is a condition that causes swellings and inflammation in your lungs. It occurs after a respiratory illness such as flu and cold. Bronchitis is caused by a virus which is generally contagious. When you have bronchitis, you spread the virus to those close to you but not the actual disease 5.


Types of Bronchitis

Bronchitis is grouped into the following categories1, 3:

Acute bronchitis

Acute bronchitis is caused by viruses which attack the walls of your airways causing swelling and increases mucus production. Bronchitis is caused by many viruses that cause respiratory illness.

  • Getting bronchitis is determined by the manner in which the virus attacks and the reaction of your body. For instance, if you have a common cold and it invades your air passage instead of staying in the throat and nose as it usually does, you will get bronchitis.
  • When you spread the virus to another person, he/she may get bronchitis or not. This depends on how the body of the other person responds to the virus.

Chronic bronchitis

It is a type of bronchitis that irritates your airways. Chronic bronchitis can last for only some months or many and usually comes back. Chronic bronchitis is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and is among the leading causes of death in the world.

  • Smoking is the most common cause of chronic bronchitis. Exposure to second smoke, chemicals, dust and other pollutants in the environment also cause chronic bronchitis.

Symptoms of Bronchitis

Bronchitis can cause the following symptoms1, 2, 5:

It makes a person cough a lot. You can cough for more than a week. You may have difficulties in breathing and experience chest pains when breathing. You may have fever and feel tired easily.

These symptoms are the same regardless of the type of bronchitis you have. You may have a congested chest and a sore throat. You may also experience shortness of breath. You may have a dry and painful cough which advances to production of green and yellow mucus. You may have a wheezing sound which is produced when your air passages are slightly blocked.

Risk Factors for Bronchitis

There are a number of risk factors that increase your chances of developing bronchitis. They include3, 4:

  • Smoking: Those who smoke are at a higher risk of chronic bronchitis. Studies have shown that smoking accounts for about 90% of chronic bronchitis cases. Besides smoking, those who inhale second smoke are also at risk of chronic bronchitis.
  • Weak immune system: People with a weak immune system are at risk of any infection because their body defensive mechanism is unable to defend the body against infections.
  • Respiratory infection: People who suffer from repetitive respiratory infections are more prone to bronchitis.
  • Exposure to pollutants: Exposing yourself to chemicals, dust and other pollutants in the environment can increase your risk of developing bronchitis.

Diagnosis of Bronchitis

During the few days of the disease, it may be difficult to distinguish the symptoms of bronchitis and cold. Your health professional will perform physical examination to get information about this condition. Your health professional will observe your symptoms and ask your medical history. Your health professional will also use a stethoscope to listen how you breathe from the lungs.2,5

Your health professional will conduct the following tests to diagnosis this illness:

Chest X-ray

Your health professional performs a chest X-ray to find out if you have pneumonia or any other medical condition that can explain your cough.

Sputum tests

Sputum is the mucus that comes from your lungs during coughing. Your health professional can take a sample of your mucus and analyze it for any infections.

Pulmonary function test

In this test, you will breathe into a spirometer which determines the amount of air your lungs can keep and how fast you expel air quickly from the lungs. This test can be used to check for conditions such as asthma.


This is a medical method where a tube called bronchoscope is put into your nose or mouth to check for problems in your airways. Bronchoscopy is done to rule out other medical conditions such as lung cancer.

Treatment for Bronchitis

Acute bronchitis usually goes away by itself after a short time. Treatment for bronchitis is based on the severity of the symptoms and can include medications and physical therapy. For chronic bronchitis, treatment is aimed at slowing the advancement of this disease to provide relief to the patient. The following treatment options can be used to cure bronchitis1, 3, 4:


There are different medications that can be used to treat bronchitis. These medications work differently; some ease inflammation in the airways, while others cure infections. The following medications can be used:

  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics are recommended to treat bacterial infection that might be causing bronchitis. Viruses are the most known causes of bronchitis, therefore using antibiotics might not eliminate the virus.
  • Cough medications: Cough drugs can provide relief from coughing.
  • Inhaler drugs: These are drugs given to reduce inflammation and swellings in the airways. Inhaler drugs contain low doses of corticosteroids.

LifeStyle Changes

Besides medications, lifestyle changes can help prevent bronchitis. These changes include:

  • Exercise regularly: Exercise can benefit people with chronic bronchitis. Regular exercise boosts circulation of air around the body as well as strengthening muscles in your body.
  • Take a lot of water: Drink enough water to prevent dehydration
  • Avoid risk factors: You need to identify the risk factors that can increase your chances of developing bronchitis and avoid them. Your health professional can help identify these risk factors. For chronic bronchitis, quit smoking if you smoke and try to avoid second smoke from cigarettes. Avoid exposure to chemicals, dust and other pollutants in the environment.


Therapies can also be used to provide relief from chronic bronchitis. Your doctor can suggest pulmonary rehabilitation which is a breathing exercise program. In this program, your doctor teaches you breathing techniques to help you breathe easily.


Bronchitis is contagious but you will not spread to any other person this illness. You will transmit to them the virus that caused bronchitis such as flu or common cold.

Many people get healed from bronchitis. But if you notice your symptoms are worsening, seek medical attention.

Reference List

  1. Bronchitis.
  3. Acute bronchitis.
  4. Bronchitis.
  5. Bronchitis.

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