Healthy Living

Is Bronchitis a Contagious Disease?

Is Bronchitis a Contagious Disease?

The human respiratory tract starts at the nose and mouth and continues down to the lungs. The air that we breathe in through our nose and mouth passes down the trachea and into the lungs through a series of branched tubes called the bronchi. For a healthy breathing to happen effectively, these tubes or bronchi have to be well-dilated and clear of obstruction. 

Bronchitis happens due to the inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes through which air passes and reaches the lungs. Many people presume that bronchitis is not a contagious disease, but that presumption is not always right because of the fact that not all bronchitis has the same cause. Since bronchitis can be caused by different germs, whether it is contagious or not, the infection is dependent on the type of germ that causes it.

Symptoms of Bronchitis

Acute Bronchitis

Acute bronchitis is due to a viral or bacterial infection, which makes a person sick very quickly. When the infection occurs, the bronchial tubes get inflamed and fill up with mucus, which is the body’s natural response to an infection to prevent it from spreading to other parts. However, this mucus layer that forms to trap the foreign intruders, results in the narrowing of the bronchial tubes that consequently makes breathing more difficult.

Acute bronchitis can only last for a short period of time, usually for one week or ten days, and then subsides. Usually, this type of lung infection is caused by viruses that can also cause colds or flu. Acute bronchitis is more often caused by a virus or sometimes bacteria making the disease highly contagious.

Coughing and sneezing are the main transmissions and are instrumental in the spread of this disease. The virus present in the sputum spreads fast through a cough or sneeze. When a person coughs, the infection-causing germs along with the sputum gets expelled and dispersed out into the surrounding environment, and anyone who can inhale the infected droplets will get infected. This type of bronchitis can also be spread by coming in direct contact with items that have recently been touched or used by a person who

This type of bronchitis can also be spread by coming in direct contact with items that have been recently touched or used by a person who has the infection.

If children happen to be infected with acute bronchitis, they may have the following symptoms:

  • runny nose
  • slight fever
  • coughing with sputum
  • the presence of mucus in their vomit

Chronic Bronchitis 

Chronic bronchitis is a long-term medical condition, which happens every year that lasts for a few months before subsiding. However, it may reappear in the subsequent years, staying for a few months and then disappears. The reason is that a set of viruses can cause infection when individuals have a prolonged exposure to conditions such as polluted air, smoke coming out of fire or cigarette, fumes from chemicals, and dust. These factors irritate the lining of the airways causing inflammation and damage. It is a serious health issue, which needs the attention of the doctor.  It has been established that smoking plays a crucial role in causing chronic bronchitis among cigarette smokers. 

If anybody thinks that people who are suffering from chronic bronchitis will not be spreading the disease, they might be quite wrong. While coughing and sneezing, people with bronchitis expel the mucus that contains the virus or bacteria into the air we breathe. Thus, spreading them into the environment poses a danger of passing on the infection to other people.

People who have chronic bronchitis can experience a difficulty in breathing with a cough containing a colored sputum or blood appearing in the mucus. Other symptoms include high fever, wheezing, and restlessness. Aside from being infected with acute bronchitis, they may also experience symptoms of chronic bronchitis.

Since acute bronchitis is a contagious disease, people who have it should take proper care to see that the infection does not spread to others, and at the same time taking appropriate antibiotics if the infection is of bacterial in origin. 

If people have a cold, flu, or acute bronchitis, when they cough, blow their nose, sneeze, spit, or just breathe, the germs are spread into the air and be deposited on the surrounding surfaces. To reduce the possibility of contracting this infection, the following precautions can be taken:

  • Avoid close contact or take precautions while interacting with people who have a cold, flu, and acute bronchitis.
  • Wash your hands often with soap or use a liquid sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth without washing your hands. Always take precautions to avoid getting infected with germs or viruses.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when an infected person near you coughs or sneezes.
  • Avoid contact with materials recently used or handled by an infected person.
  • If you are a nonsmoker, it is safer to stay that way and try to avoid first-hand, second-hand, as well as third-hand smoke.
  • If you already smoke, then you should consider giving it up as cigarette smoke is one of the main causes of bronchial tube damage, making the individual more susceptible to both forms of bronchitis.
  • Get a flu vaccination every year to prevent getting infected.

The Bottom Line

Bronchitis is a condition that occurs when the bronchial tubes get inflamed. The inflammation could be caused by either a viral or bacterial infection, exposure to dust, fumes, industrial or cigarette smoke, and other airborne-polluting agents. 

There are two types of bronchitis:

  1. Acute bronchitis - is more commonly caused by a viral infection
  2. Chronic bronchitis - is caused due to a long-term exposure to the above-mentioned irritants in the air, which can lead to a damaged inner lining of the bronchi.

Some of the more common symptoms of bronchitis include coughing, the formation of mucus, headaches, muscle pain, difficulty in breathing, fatigue, and in cases of an infection, a high-grade fever and chills.


Acute bronchitis, although less serious and curable, is more contagious of the two forms. The disease-causing virus or bacteria prevails in the sputum of the person and is spread through coughing or sneezing. Tiny droplets of the sputum are spread out into the surrounding environment resulting in the spread of the pathogen. People who come in contact with the infected air droplets or objects exposed to the infection are of a very high risk of contracting the disease.

Chronic bronchitis is a long-term condition that lasts for a few years and flares up during certain months of the year, especially during winter. This condition might not be as contagious as acute bronchitis, but none the less, one does have to be careful. In several cases, patients with chronic bronchitis are more prone to catching acute bronchitis and might not even be aware that they have the infection. These individuals could very well be unknowingly spreading the infection to others.

Acute bronchitis can be prevented and even treated with the right precautionary measures and medication. There are also some natural remedies that you can do at home to relieve your bronchitis symptoms. While there is no cure for chronic bronchitis, the symptoms can be kept under control with the help of medical intervention.