Bronchitis is more commonly known as chest cold. Is it contagious? The answer may surprise you! Many people assume that it’s not contagious, but that is not always true, because not all types of this disease has the same cause.
Bronchitis generally is described as the irritation and inflammation of the mucous membrane within the lungs bronchial passages. As the mucous membranes become agitated, they grow thicker and the swelling can restrict the airway to the lungs. This can cause a number of symptoms, like coughing, sore throat, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Physicians usually categorize it as acute disease (lasting less than 6 weeks) or chronic condition (reoccurring or constant for more than two years). In order to determine whether it is contagious or not, it is helpful to exam the disease from these two perspectives.
This type comes on quickly and usually lasts for a relatively short time. It’s most commonly caused by a viral infection, such as the cold or flu virus. Acute bronchitis is contagious if it is caused by either a virus or bacteria. These germs may be present in mucus that can be spread through coughing or sneezing. Special care should be taken to avoid spreading of the condition, including covering the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and washing hands with soap frequently.
Chronic bronchitis is a long-term condition and usually is caused by repeated exposure to something that irritates the lining of the airways. This type is not contagious. Smoking is the primary cause but the most damaging forms of this chronic disease, however, can often be avoided. Other common causes include air pollution, dust, or fumes from work environment. However, just because someone has been diagnosed with chronic bronchitis does not mean he or she can never be contagious.
So if coughing or difficulty breathing seems worse than that normally caused by chronic bronchitis, be cautious in case a contagious variety is also present.
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