British Lung Foundation
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Are chest infections contagious

I have had a chest infection since september last year probably due to/following major abdominal surgery last august. I have had 2 different courses of antibiotics. But the second time I saw gp I got the impression I was wasting time and felt like a hypochondriac when she said my chest sounded clear.I dont have any chest pain although I have a persistent cough and still coughing up phlegm. I always seem to have/get the cold easily for as long as I can remember ie blocked nose/pleghmy feeling. The reason I am asking if chest infections are contagious is that my OH has moderate copd and had a chest infection last week and I dont want to be passing this on to him. It just seems to be lingering in me but not getting any worse, should I go back to my gp again? any advice would be greatly appreciated thanks.

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Chest infections themselves are not contagious. If you have a cold which is obviously viral, you can pass that on and sometimes a viral illness such as a cold or flu can lead to a secondary bacterial infection such as a chest infection.

Sometimes, particularly with a cold or sinus problems, phlegm can drip from the back of the nose into the throat giving you the feeling that it is from the lungs.

If this persists though, I perhaps would ask your GP, if your lungs are clear, where is the phlegm coming from.

but to be honest with you, if you are worried, you should go back to your GP



Thank you for your replies everyone.

Kat I almost constantly seem to have a blocked nose and snuffly causing dripping into my throat but also coughing up plegm from my chest. It is clear in colour at the moment.

If you are having any symptoms that you are not happy with mejust, you really should go back to your GP.

If there is more than one thing troubling you, as you said there is, make a little list for yourself so you make sure each is addressed, that is what I do as it is so easy to forget.


Bacteria are the little blighters finding ideal habitat in lungs where blockages in the old plumbing form the desirable residence they must be evicted from at the earliest opportunity using the full weight of available medicinal might.

According to the NHS:

"Chest infections are contagious

Although acute bronchitis and pneumonia are not as contagious as conditions such as flu, they can be passed on to others through coughing and sneezing.

It is therefore important to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and to wash your hands regularly. Throw away used tissues immediately."


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You are absolutely correct auntymary and I should have chosen my words much more carefully. They are not contagious in the sense that you only need to be in the same room as someone with a cold or the flu and you will likely catch it.

Cough and splutter enough directly at a person and they can get the same infection and the tissue thing is very important as you pointed out


I didn't intend to contradict you, I had to look it up to check! But I felt it was important to clarify by repeating what the "experts" were saying. Am x

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I didnt see it as being contradicted aunty mary and I am glad you did say what you did.

I have not nursed for over 10 years and there are not only gaps in my knowledge but there are some things I know that I tend to assume is common knowledge.

I will say how I have always seen these things and by all means, contradict me or tell me I am wrong. I am not a microbiologist and this stuff is so flipping complicated

I will go with a viral infection that someone gets and that results in bronchitis. by the coughing and sneezing, another person can contract that viral infection (such as colds or flu) but it may or may not result in a chest infection.

Thereby, at least in my head, chest infection is not contagious in the real sense but the virus that caused the bronchitis can be passed on but it wont necessarily cause anything more than a cold or flu.

And please, I would be happy for anyone to tell me I am wrong because I am never unwilling to learn

But you did not offend me in any way and if I am wrong about something, I would much rather someone tell me than to not know and the result of that being that people or even one person may be misinformed by what I have said



"Never unwilling to learn" - my own viewpoint exactly, which is why I looked it up! Auntymary ;)

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Sorry to be picky but I always thought contagious was passing on by touch e.g. impertigo, and infectious was by airborne, correct me if I am wrong.

Carole x

It is not that simple Carole. There are many significant differences between the two. As a general rule though, every contagious disease is infectious, but, all infectious diseases are not contagious.

Contagious is defined as "capable of being transmitted from individual to individual (person to person; animal to animal); communicable."

Infectious is defined as "caused by or capable of being communicated by infection." And to understand that you need to know that infection is defined as "1. invasion and multipication of microorganisms in body tissues."

(Source: Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary, 30th edition)

Infectious diseases are caused by microscopic germs (such as bacteria or viruses) that get into the body and cause problems. Some — but not all — infectious diseases spread directly from one person to another. Infectious diseases that spread from person to person are said to be contagious.

Auntymary xx

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The best way to avoid contracting influenza or cold is to keep yourself warm and drink plenty of fluids. Liquids like tea can also reduce mucus thickness. You can also use a humidifier at home as warm moist air causes the bronchial tubes to relax and it loosens up mucus, however, care should be taken to clean out the humidifier regularly to avoid bacteria or fungi propagating in it. If managing a humidifier is problematic, breathing in steam from boiling water can soften mucus while adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil has enhance the effect of steam therapy as the oil contains antibacterial properties which can heal burning sensation in the throat. Still, there are some other natural foods like honey which has antiviral as well as antibacterial properties and eating a tablespoon daily may help soothes the throat. Oregano oil and salt water tends to lessen throat soreness. Orange and lemon juice are rich in vitamin C and have antioxidant properties. Drink lots of orange juice to build immune properties in the body. Or boil a cup of water and add a few drops of lemon juice in it and drink to relieve throat soreness. Ginger may have anti-inflammatory properties. Add half a teaspoon of ground ginger and cinnamon to hot water and drink the mixture. In addition drink plenty of water as it is necessary to keep your body hydrated during cold and influenza bouts to avoid your throat from getting dry, which can make coughing painful.

I would think your infections are more to do with COPD than anything else. I had the same problem last year back & fro to docs & last 1 said I had a Viral or Bacterial Infection would go in time, I was 3 mths housebound until I started using Eucalyptus Oil sniffing has cleared my Airways & the Chest Nurse at the Clinic said I have improved immensely. Have a Majob Op coming up so trying to get fitter move more. Stopped going to docs this year just for b/p meds etc as I am on wrong meds for Heart/b/p been waiintg 8 weeks for urgent Cardiologist Appointment! Went other week as Gynae needs b/p sorted for op doc said your wheezy did a check my COPD was having an exaberation so 7 weeks Steroids & Antibiotics which is the 1st lot since Sept/Oct. Phlegm is part of COPd we have to try to keep it moving/thinned plent of fluids & i am on Carbositein which thins it out immensely.

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