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Ask Dr. D. Love Your Own Question
Dr. D. Love
Dr. D. Love, Doctor
Category: Medical
Satisfied Customers: 19308
Experience:  Family Physician for 10 years; Hospital Medical Director for 10 years.
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I wanted to ask how contagious chest infections that follow

Customer Question

I wanted to ask how contagious chest infections that follow a virus are, and for how long the sufferer is infectious, and how much of a risk may be posed to my baby. I am currently visiting family with my five month old baby. A relative has a respiratory virus she caught from her child. Both the child and mother have a bad chesty cough though no nasal congestion and the mother is now taking antibiotics for a chest infection. I am worried about my baby catching it as I believe chest infections can be dangerous for babies.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Medical
Expert:  Dr. D. Love replied 2 years ago.
Hello from JustAnswer.

The chest infections that follow a virus are usually still an infection by that virus, but instead of just causing an upper respiratory infection, the virus then settles in the chest and causes an acute bronchitis. In this setting the infection is moderately contagious, similar to other respiratory viral infections, such as the common cold. The duration of the contagiousness will vary, usually about a week, but can be up to 2-3 weeks. Generally speaking, the individual is contagious immediately before developing symptoms and then while the symptoms are getting worse and remaining bad for the bulk of the course of the illness. Once the symptoms have gotten significantly better, then it is no longer contagious, even if there are some minor residual symptoms.

There are actually other types of scenarios of chest infections following a viral upper respiratory infection. There are certain atypical bacteria that can cause a bronchitis, such as mycoplasma, and these are also moderately contagious during the time that symptoms are present. It is also possible to develop a bacterial pneumonia after a viral upper respiratory infection, particularly after an influenza infection. These types of infections are less common, but more serious, and usually cause more symptoms than a bad cough. When they do occur, they actually are only mildly contagious, although the antecedent viral infection is moderately contagious.

So, it is most likely a viral or atypical bacterial infection that is moderately contagious for about a week or slightly longer, but once the symptoms are significantly better, even if not completely gone, there is no reason for ongoing concern about being contagious.

If I can provide any further information, please let me know.