Is Bronchitis Contagious? Here Is How You Can Prevent It

Nov 10, 2022


Acute Bronchitis

A women coughing

Bronchitis occurs when your bronchial tubes (that carry air to and from the lungs) are inflamed with excess mucus, which causes persistent coughing. It can be either chronic or acute. Chronic bronchitis is usually not contagious, as it is caused by long-term exposure to pollutants or irritants.

However, acute bronchitis is infectious, as it is often caused by viruses, affecting nearly 85%-95% of healthy adults. If left untreated, acute bronchitis can progress into chronic bronchitis or pneumonia.

How Does Bronchitis Spread?

Acute bronchitis caused by viruses and bacteria can spread by:

  • Shaking hands or having close contact with an infected person (then touching your face)
  • Sharing objects or utensils with them
  • The infected person’s respiratory droplets spreading when they sneeze, cough, or talk

The virus or bacteria can enter your body through your mouth/eyes/nose, or a cut/wound in the skin.

However, you can reduce your risk of contracting bronchitis by:

  • Avoiding close contact with an infected person
  • Washing your hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Not touching your mouth, eyes, and nose with unwashed hands
  • Getting an annual flu vaccination

How Long Are You Contagious with Bronchitis?

Usually, it takes 2 to 6 days after contact for the symptoms to show. You are contagious a few hours before your symptoms show and remain contagious until active infection symptoms subside (fever, body aches, chills). The persistent, dry cough from bronchitis is due to the irritation of the bronchial airways, not an active infection.

While healthy individuals are less vulnerable to bacterial acute bronchitis, seniors, small children, and people with chronic diseases or compromised immune systems are at increased risk. If a provider determines that antibiotics are needed, antibiotics for bacterial bronchitis will make you less contagious within one to two days.

Though chronic bronchitis is non-contagious, it is possible to have both acute and chronic bronchitis simultaneously. In such circumstances, you may pass acute bronchitis to others around you.

How to Know If You Have Bronchitis?

The following are some common symptoms:

  • Phlegmy or dry cough
  • Wheezing
  • Tiredness
  • Sore throat
  • Headaches and body aches
  • Runny nose

You may find it difficult to know whether you have a regular cold or bronchitis, as some symptoms are common to both. However, if your cough persists (for more than two weeks) even after other symptoms subside, you may have bronchitis.

How Can I Prevent Bronchitis?

Consider these tips:

  • Wear a mask to cover your mouth and nose
  • Don’t touch shared surfaces like doors, ATMs, stair rails, etc. (if contact is unavoidable, use hand sanitizer after)
  • Stay hydrated and eat a healthy diet
  • Quit smoking
  • Get your respiratory vaccines: flu, COVID, and pneumonia
  • Limit your exposure to environmental irritants and pollutants
  • Regularly disinfect floors and high-contact surfaces in your home
  • Stay away from triggers, such as pets, pollen, and dust if you have allergies and asthma
  • Use a humidifier to moisten the air, which can soothe the lungs
  • Sneeze or cough into your elbow instead of your hand

As cough is the major bronchitis symptom, managing can help you feel better. Check out the insights on preventing a bronchitic cough.

When Should You Visit an Urgent Care Center for Bronchitis?

Most cases of acute bronchitis go away on their own within a few days with over-the-counter medications and rest. However, you should seek medical attention with an urgent care provider if:

  • You have a fever above 100.4°F (38°C)
  • Your cough lasts for more than three weeks or often returns
  • You experience wheezing
  • Your cough is accompanied by bloody mucus
  • You have any difficulty breathing

Visit FCCMG Today for Bronchitis Diagnosis and Treatment!

Whether you have a persistent cough or are experiencing symptoms similar to bronchitis, walk into one of our urgent care centers in Irvine Woodbridge, Fountain Valley, and Costa Mesa, CA, today for proper diagnosis and treatment. We have board-certified healthcare providers to quickly treat your condition with a personalized care regimen, for prompt relief while preventing further complications.