Undergoing a checkup as soon as the first symptoms of bronchitis appear is vital not only to in determine the type of bronchitis and what course of treatment is appropriate, but to also know whether a case of bronchitis can be contagious or not.
These are the major causes of both acute and chronic bronchitis, the two known types of this disease:1,2,3
• Viral infections
• Bacterial infections
• Exposure to lung irritants such as cigarette or tobacco smoke, dust, fumes, vapor or polluted air
• Underlying diseases
These Agents Make Bronchitis Contagious
Determining if bronchitis is contagious or not depends on what actually causes the disease. Sadly, if a case of bronchitis is a result of either a viral or bacterial infection, either repeated4 or not, it is contagious.5,6
Viruses or bacteria that trigger infections, and consequently bronchitis, can spread from one person to another via droplets that are expelled when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. Touching an infected surface and then touching the mouth, eyes or nose afterward paves the way for the transfer of the virus or bacteria.7
Bronchitis Isn’t Contagious — Provided It’s Caused by These
On the other hand, if frequent exposure to pollutants, cigarette or tobacco smoke or other environmental factors are to blame for catching bronchitis, the disease is not contagious.
These causes are often connected to the lifestyle of a patient, and not everyone may be exposed to these irritants. The same can be said if the diseases below have resulted in bronchitis:9,10,11,12
• Asthma — this condition is said to be caused by hereditary and environmental factors.
• Cystic fibrosis — a patient does not get cystic fibrosis through any form of personal contact, as it is a hereditary disease.
• Congestive heart failure — coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and diabetes are said to be the main causes of this condition, and are all linked to poor lifestyle habits, such as smoking, irregular exercise,13 excess alcohol intake and obesity.14
• Immunodeficiency — there are two types of immunodeficiency disorders:15 those that are genetic and are typically inherited from one or both parents, and those which can be acquired later in life, such as cancers of the immune system, and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which can be spread via interaction with infected fluids including blood, semen or breast milk, or through unprotected sex or sharing of needles.16
Remember that just because bronchitis may not always be contagious, this does not make the disease any less debilitating nor does it mean it should be treated lightly. It pays to take caution and follow preventive measures to avoid the disease from harming you or your loved ones.
And as mentioned in the beginning, if bronchitis symptoms manifest in you or someone you know, make sure to consult a physician quickly.