How Contagious Is Bronchitis And What Can You Do About It?

Bronchitis will cause you to cough an awful lot and it should make it difficult to breathe. The condition has symptoms such as fever, wheezing, tiredness, and comes with chest pain too. It is caused when the lining of your lung’s airways become inflamed and irritated. There are also two types of bronchitis to look out for so as soon as you seem unable to stop coughing then you should consult a physician.

In this article, we will take a closer look at how contagious is bronchitis and what can you do about it.

Table of Contents

How Contagious Is Bronchitis?

Remember that there are two types of bronchitis; chronic and acute. Thankfully, chronic bronchitis is not contagious but your airways will be inflamed. The symptoms can last for at least three months and it may be painful. Chronic bronchitis can even be recurring over two years so once you think it has gone away, it can come back. The condition is known to be a serious lung disease and a variation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. 

While chronic bronchitis may not be contagious, that is not the case for its acute variation. Acute bronchitis can last for between one and three weeks which may not seem like a long time. However, you can pass it on to others so you should be careful. It is typically the case with acute bronchitis that it is caused by flu or common cold viruses so it will be contagious too. 

In some cases, acute bronchitis can be caused by a complication of either asthma or chronic bronchitis. If you have had either condition and it has progressed to acute bronchitis then it should not be as contagious as you may assume. That’s because this version of acute bronchitis was not caused by a particularly infectious virus like a cold or flu, though it has developed to include more painful symptoms.

How Long Can Bronchitis Be Contagious For?

Those early days of coughing and wheezing may involve you wanting to take yourself away from friends and family. The condition can be contagious so it is important to look after yourself while looking out for others. Preventing the condition from spreading is crucial to keep it at bay.

It may be a few days before you realize you have bronchitis as it can seem like a regular cold. However, if you do maintain coughing for over a week then it is likely that you have bronchitis. That’s even if other symptoms vanish, the persistent cough is a typical indicator of the condition.

The length of your contagion can depend on several factors, largely depending on which type of virus you have. You can expect to be contagious for an initial few days, even up to a week. Until you know what type of condition or illness you have, you can never be too sure. 

There are literally hundreds of similar conditions so if you keep coughing, it is probably best to believe you have bronchitis and to treat it as contagious. However, if you have some antibiotics at hand then you can stop yourself from being contagious within 24 hours as the condition is caused by bacteria. 

How You Can Prevent Catching Bronchitis?

You can prevent the spread of bronchitis, and prevent catching it yourself in the first place, by following some general precautions. If you know someone who seems to have the flu or other respiratory conditions, avoid getting into close contact with them. Consult your physician about getting a yearly flu shot to help your own immune system. Wash your hands as often as you can, use a hand sanitizer that is alcohol-based, and avoid touching your nose, eyes, and mouth. 

When to See a Doctor?

Once the coughing begins to develop, you should consider seeing a physician. That’s certainly the case if your cough fails to improve after around ten days and it is so hard that you are failing to sleep. Should it be uncomfortable and you develop chest pain combined with difficulty in breathing then this is another indication that you should book an appointment.

There may also be unexplained weight loss associated with the coughing and wheezing that gives the impression that you cannot breathe. A fever above 100.4°F, blood in your coughing mucus, and symptoms that go beyond a cold are also signs that you should seek medical advice. It may also be the case that you get bronchitis frequently, in which case you may want to look for some general advice.

How Can DrHouse Help You?

With DrHouse, you can look for professional medical advice from the comfort of your own home. We offer an on-demand online doctor service via our telehealth app where you can see a clinician within 15 minutes or less. Our doctors can diagnose your symptoms, provide you with a personalized treatment plan, and write you prescriptions (if needed).


What Other Methods Can I Use to Reduce the Risk of Bronchitis?

As well as avoiding people who look like they are sick, avoid inhaling smoke as that can act as an irritant to your lungs, specifically the airways. Avoid triggers such as pollen, pets, and dust if you have allergies or suffer from asthma. Try to run a humidifier in your home and give yourself plenty of rest if you feel a cough coming on. You can also eat a healthy diet to boost your immune system.

Is Bronchitis Considered a Serious Condition?

While acute bronchitis feels painful, it is not considered serious as it should be over in a matter of weeks. However, when it is combined with asthma it can feel significantly worse. Chronic bronchitis is considered serious as it may mean that you are suffering from lung damage. That damage may not be reversed though you may be able to mitigate the symptoms.

Key Takeaways

Bronchitis can be contagious yet it depends on how you have got the condition and what you do about it. Fight the bacteria with some antibiotics though remember that acute bronchitis typically goes away itself even though it has been caused by viruses. Treat the symptoms, look after yourself, and wait for the inflammation to die down. Alas, chronic bronchitis may be there for the long term but you can treat it.


Content on the DrHouse website is written by our medical content team and reviewed by qualified MDs, PhDs, NPs, and PharmDs. We follow strict content creation guidelines to ensure accurate medical information. However, this content is for informational purposes only and not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. For more information read our medical disclaimer.

Always consult with your physician or other qualified health providers about medical concerns. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it based on what you read on this website.

If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.



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