Bronchitis FAQs

Bronchitis FAQs

Is bronchitis contagious?

As the cause of acute bronchitis is bacterial, often brought on by colds and flu, it can be contagious. Depending on the type of virus you have, you are likely to only be contagious for a period of a few days to a week. A good rule of thumb is that you are likely contagious while you are experiencing other cold and flu symptoms.

Chronic bronchitis tends to develop from irritants such as dust, chemicals or smoke which are not normally contagious. As a result, chronic bronchitis isn’t a contagious condition, but is a serious health problem that does require a doctor’s care.

How long does bronchitis last?

Acute bronchitis usually takes between 1 to 3 weeks to clear completely. Chronic bronchitis can persist for a few months or longer, and tends to recur year after year.

Is it bronchitis or pneumonia?

It is rare, but bronchitis can develop into pneumonia. Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes. Pneumonia occurs where there is an infection in the lungs. Tiny air sacs in the lungs called alveoli, become infected and swollen.

Pneumonia can be mild, but sometimes more severe depending on the cause of it, especially for the very young, those who are 65 and older, as well as those who generally have weaker immune systems.

Common symptoms for pneumonia include a cough (you may also bring up a yellow, green or even bloody mucus), fever, bodily shaking and chills, shortness of breath, a sharp chest pain that’s worse when coughing or breathing, confusion (especially in adults 65 years of age and older), fatigue, headaches, heavy sweating or damp and clammy skin, nausea and vomiting.

When should I call my doctor?

It is necessary to seek medical assistance if:

  • You bring up blood or mucus that thickens or darkens when you cough.
  • You notice a foul-tasting fluid in your mouth.
  • Your cough keeps you awake at night.
  • You experience a persistent cough for 1 to 3 weeks.
  • Your cough has a ‘barking’ sound and you find it difficult to speak due to wheezing or shortness of breath.
  • You experience any sudden or unexplained weight loss.
  • You experience a high fever of around [celcius:38].
  • You are 65 years of age or older and have a persistent cough.

Can bronchitis be prevented?

Your chances of getting bronchitis can be lowered or prevented in some of the following instances:

  • If you take measures to avoid inhaling cigarette smoke, where possible.
  • Get a flu vaccine before the winter season when colds and flu are most common.
  • Get a pneumonia vaccine, especially if you are 60 years of age or older.
  • Maintain good hygiene and wash your hands regularly.
  • Wear a mask when around fumes or chemicals which can irritate the lungs. If possible, ensure that the area where these are present is well ventilated. If ventilation is poor, a respirator, which fits over your nose and mouth can help to clean the air before it reaches your lungs.
  • In the home, refrain from using spray chemicals such as paint, hair spray, household cleaners and bug sprays. If you have to use any spray chemicals, ensure that windows are open or that you use the spray in well-ventilated areas (an open space). Wearing a mask while spraying will also help to protect your lungs.
  • If dust, pollen or other allergy triggers bring on bronchitis symptoms, you can wear a mask, as well as consult an allergist. An allergist will assist with shots or medications which can prevent allergic reactions to the specific triggers you are most affected by.
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