Bronchitis can occur in an acute or chronic form. Based on the clinical picture, this disease can be considered contagious or non-contagious. Read on to see if bronchitis is contagious or not.
Bronchitis is a potentially contagious disease characterized by lower respiratory tract infection. It occurs when the bronchi of the lungs become inflamed due to an infection or for other reasons, such as smoking or prolonged inhalation of toxic dust and gases.
We must distinguish between two types of bronchitis: chronic and acute. According to epidemiological studies, the former, which is prolonged and difficult to approach, can affect up to 11% of the population between 20 and 70 years of age.
For this reason, it is common to wonder if bronchitis is contagious. Below we will try to answer this question.
Types of bronchitis
As anticipated, there are two types of bronchitis. To sum up, acute bronchitis is contagious, while chronic bronchitis is not. Read on, as this statement requires a long list of caveats to take into account.
According to bibliographic sources, over 10 million people in the United States turn to their doctor each year to seek advice on this disease. Therefore, we could say that it is a rather common pathology.
As stated by other reliable sources, the infectious agents responsible for acute bronchitis are in 90% of cases viruses (adenovirus, influenza virus, parainfluenza virus, RSV, rhinovirus, bocavirus, coxsackie or herpes simplex); in the remaining 10% of cases they are bacteria ( Streptococcus pneumoniae stands out ). It is therefore a contagious disease.
According to the studies cited, precisely because they are associated with viral infections, acute bronchitis follows a seasonal pattern. That is to say that they occur very often in the winter months, as cold and dry climates are correlated with greater viral contagion.
Take for example the influenza virus, which has a basic reproduction index, called R0, around 1.3 (according to the New York Times ). This means that an infected person transmits the disease to 1.3 other people. Acute bronchitis is subject to these epidemiological parameters.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the symptoms of acute bronchitis can be summarized in the following list:
- Cough with phlegm.
- Respiratory difficulties.
- Light fever and chills.
- Stinging in the chest.
It must be said that this variant of bronchitis is by nature self-limiting; this means that it passes on its own 10-14 days after the first symptoms appear.
Although it is mainly associated with pathogens, acute bronchitis can also be due to non-infectious processes (allergies, inhalations or gastroesophageal reflux). Because of this, not all cases of acute bronchitis are contagious, but most are.
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In this case we are faced with a long-lasting pathology, characterized by recurrent inflammation of the airways, with secondary damage. As The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NIH) explains, the cough persists for several months. It also often recurs for two or more consecutive years.
In this case we do not move in the soil of pathogens. Sources such as the Mayo Clinic assure that up to 75% of cases are associated with smoking; other risk factors can be asthma, cystic fibrosis, age or genetic predisposition. It is also usually part of a serious infection known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
According to the US National Library of Medicine, the symptoms of chronic bronchitis are more severe and long-lasting than those of the acute variant. Among these are:
- Prolonged, continuous and recurrent cough, responsible for excess phlegm.
- Wheezing: A whistling or hissing sound when breathing.
- Shortness of breath, especially during physical exertion.
- Chest pressure.
Although this pathology is associated with non-infectious agents, this is not always the case. Chronic bronchitis can also be caused by various microorganisms, such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Moraxella catarrhalis and Mycoplasma pneumoniae.
This risk is a complication that adds to the respiratory tract infection and mainly affects people who have undergone a tracheotomy or are immunosuppressed.
How to prevent bronchitis?
To answer the initial question, namely whether bronchitis is contagious, the answer is clear: the acute variant is generally infectious in nature, therefore contagious, unlike the chronic one. Prevention measures will depend on the type we are trying to protect ourselves from.
However, the Healthcare Solutions has gathered some general considerations to keep in mind. Some of these are as follows:
- Avoid close contact with people suffering from influenza and other respiratory diseases. The infection of viruses occurs through the microparticles of saliva expelled by coughing and sneezing.
- Wash your hands often with soap or disinfectant, especially in winter and in periods when the epidemiological risk is high.
- Do not touch your eyes, nose and mouth without first having performed a proper sanitation.
- Get vaccinated every year against the flu, especially if you belong to the categories at risk, such as the elderly over 65 years.
These measures are designed to prevent acute bronchitis, which is by nature more infectious. To prevent chronic bronchitis, it is clear that not smoking is the best preventative measure.
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Contrary to what one might think, the two types of bronchitis are not distinguished according to the agent that causes it, but by the duration of the inflammation of the bronchi.
Precisely for this reason, not all acute cases are caused by pathogens, nor are all chronic ones caused by smoking. There are exceptions, although influenza viruses are usually associated with the acute variant.
In the presence of a relapse of a fat cough, lasting more than two weeks, it is necessary to consult a doctor. The practitioner will make a diagnosis of chronic bronchitis or other upper respiratory disease.
T sum up whole story, Bronchitis is a contagious disease which is characterized by lower respiratory tract inflammations. It happens when the lungs’ bronchi become inflamed due to an infection or for some other causes, such as smoking or prolonged inhalation of toxic dust and gases.