Yes and no. It is not a trick question or answer. The real answer is – it depends. Bronchitis is divided into two very different categories. First is acute bronchitis which is what most think of when they hear the word bronchitis. This type of bronchitis is caused by a viral infection called influenza and is highly contagious. It is easily spread by coughing, sneezing, and even simply breathing. The infection is caused by air borne germs. There is truly no way to protect yourself from the germs that are spread around by someone with the virus.
Unfortunately, viral infections can not be treated by traditional antibiotics. The person carrying the virus is contagious for as long as they are showing any symptoms of bronchitis. This includes the well known hacking cough commonly associated with bronchitis. These symptoms can also include a wet mucous discharge from the cough, fever, headache, and fatigue.
If a person has acute bronchitis and it continues for longer than a week medical advice is called for. There maybe another underlying cause of the bronchitis that only a doctor will be able to find. Similarly, if you have bronchitis more often than once a year, you should seek medical advice. In most all cases bronchitis is caused by viruses; however, in some cases there may be a bacterial infection which will only be able to be treated properly by antibiotics. It has been proven that antibiotics that are over prescribed for viral infections may actually create other infections such as yeast infections. Only a doctor will be able to tell if it is bacterial or viral.
The second type of bronchitis is called chronic bronchitis. This form of bronchitis is not contagious. It has almost identical symptoms including the common cough and wheezing found in acute bronchitis. However, it is cause by a very different group of sources. Smoking, second hand smoke, or other air borne allergies are the culprits that cause the chronic bronchitis. Many times this form of bronchitis is the first sign of more serious respiratory conditions. Like the acute form, antibiotics will have no effect on this form of bronchitis.
Regardless of the type of bronchitis that you have, any cough lasting more than one week is reason to seek professional medical advice. An ounce of prevention can be priceless. If you are in a public environment where many people have access to it, avoid contact with anyone who has a hacking cough. Wash your hands frequently with an antibacterial soap. Disinfect items that may have had direct contact with anyone who has displayed a hacking cough. If someone in you home as a hacking cough, be sure to disinfect door handles, the bathrooms and use a disinfectant air spray to remove and kill any airborne viral infections floating around.