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Is Bronchitis Contagious?

Bronchitis happens when the tubes that carry oxygen to your lungs become inflamed or swollen. It can happen chronically, where the symptoms are reoccurring or never go away, or it can be acute, where symptoms go away in a few weeks. Acute bronchitis is contagious because it is caused by a bacteria or virus. Chronic bronchitis, however, is not because a specific lung irritant normally causes it. If you think you are experiencing bronchitis or other general illnesses, visit AFC Urgent Care Springfield to get a diagnosis. 

Symptoms & Causes of Bronchitis

Both acute and chronic bronchitis experience the same symptoms. For bronchitis to be considered chronic, symptoms will need to last at least three months and show up twice within two years. These symptoms can include:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • A “wet” cough that produces mucus
  • Chest congestion

Acute bronchitis may also experience a low-grade fever, body aches, and/or a sore throat. A cough is a symptom that will last the longest, even after all others have passed. Shortness of breath and cough are also two significant symptoms of COVID-19. If you are experiencing these and have been exposed to someone with COVID, you should get a rapid COVID test

Irritants of the lungs cause chronic bronchitis. These can include inhaling air pollution or smoking for multiple years. You are more at risk of contracting chronic bronchitis if you have a family history of lung disease, have asthma or a weakened immune system. Viruses or bacteria that cause the flu and colds can also cause acute bronchitis, though it is easier to contract if you have asthma or a weakened immune system as well. 

Treatment & Prevention

Acute bronchitis typically resolves itself within a few weeks. If it was caused by bacteria, there may be antibiotics that can help fight it. Drinking a lot of water, and getting plenty of rest will help speed up the recovery process, and humidifiers can help with chest congestion. There are some OTC medications that may help relieve symptoms. Treatment for chronic bronchitis is determined by a primary care physician, as the treatment depends on the severity of the case.

Both forms of bronchitis can be prevented by washing your hands frequently, especially before eating. Wear a mask around certain air pollutants, and avoid cigarette smoke. Additionally, getting a flu shot will help decrease your chances, as the flu is one way to contract bronchitis.