What Is the Difference Between Bronchitis and Pneumonia?

You’re coughing, you’ve got a fever, and your chest feels like it’s clogged with mucus. Do you have bronchitis or pneumonia? Both are lung conditions with similar signs, so it can be difficult to discriminate.

Nevertheless, they each impact different parts of your lungs:

  • Bronchitis affects the bronchial tubes that bring air to your lungs.
  • Pneumonia affects the air sacs, called alveoli, where oxygen passes into your blood. Pneumonia triggers these air sacs to fill with fluid or pus.

In addition, bronchitis comes in 2 types:

  • Severe bronchitis is an infection caused by viruses and in some cases bacteria.
  • Chronic bronchitis is a long-term inflammation in your lungs.

Often, bronchitis can turn into pneumonia. Read on to get more information about the similarities and differences between these 2 conditions.

What Are the Symptoms?

Both bronchitis and pneumonia cause a cough that in some cases produces phlegm, a thick type of mucus that’s made in your chest. You can discriminate between bronchitis and pneumonia by checking for other signs.

Symptoms of Bronchitis

The symptoms of bronchitis depend upon whether it’s severe or chronic.

Signs of acute bronchitis are really similar to those of an upper respiratory infection, such as:

  • fatigue
  • sore throat
  • runny nose
  • stuffed nose
  • fever
  • chills
  • body aches
  • mild headache

When you cough, you might likewise notice that your phlegm looks green or yellow.

Severe bronchitis symptoms typically improve within a couple of days, however the cough can stay for a couple of weeks. Discover more about how long bronchitis symptoms can last.

Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, triggers a persistent cough that typically lasts for a minimum of 3 months. You might likewise feel that your cough goes through cycles of getting better and worse. When it gets worse, it’s called a flare-up.

Chronic bronchitis belongs to a group of conditions called chronic obstructive lung illness (COPD). COPD also consists of chronic emphysema and asthma.

Additional signs of COPD, consisting of chronic bronchitis, consist of:

  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing
  • fatigue
  • chest discomfort

Symptoms of Pneumonia

Pneumonia also generally comes with a cough that often produces yellow or green phlegm.

Other signs of pneumonia consist of:

  • fatigue
  • fever, which may be as high as 105 ° F. shaking chills.
  • chest pain, particularly when you breathe deeply or cough.
  • sweating.
  • nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • shortness of breath.
  • confusion, especially in older grownups.
  • blue lips from lack of oxygen.

Pneumonia symptoms can vary from mild to extreme.

What Causes Bronchitis and Pneumonia?

Severe bronchitis and pneumonia are both caused by an infection, while chronic bronchitis is caused by lung inflammation.

Causes of Bronchitis

Intense bronchitis is generally caused by a virus. In less than 10 percent of cases, it’s caused by bacteria.

In both viral and bacterial bronchitis, germs enter the bronchial tubes of your lungs and trigger inflammation. In some cases, a cold or other respiratory infection turns into bronchitis.

Chronic bronchitis is caused by frequent exposure to things that irritate your lungs, such as cigarette smoke, polluted air, or dust.

Causes of Pneumonia

Pneumonia usually arises from a virus, bacteria, or fungi. Inhaling irritants can likewise trigger it. When these germs or irritants go into the alveoli in your lungs, you can establish pneumonia.

There are a number of types of pneumonia, depending on the underlying cause:

  • Bacterial pneumonia is caused by bacteria. The most typical type of bacterial pneumonia is called pneumococcal pneumonia, which is caused by the Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria.
  • Viral pneumonia is caused by a virus, such as the influenza virus.
  • Mycoplasma pneumonia is caused by tiny organisms called Mycoplasma that have characteristics for both viruses and bacteria.
  • Fungal pneumonia is caused by fungi, such as Pneumocystis jiroveci.

How Bronchitis and Pneumonia Are Diagnosed

Your doctor can use the exact same strategies to diagnose both bronchitis and pneumonia.

To begin, they’ll inquire about your signs, consisting of when they began and how severe they are.

Next, they’ll likely use a stethoscope to listen to your lungs as you breathe. Crackling, bubbling, whistling, or rattling sounds could be signs that you have either bronchitis or pneumonia.

Depending on your symptoms, they might do some additional screening, such as:

  • Sputum culture. This involves taking a sample of the phlegm you cough up and examining it for specific germs.
  • Chest X-rays. These can assist your doctor see where the infection remains in your lungs, which can help them compare bronchitis and pneumonia.
  • Pulse oximetry. For this test, your doctor attaches a clip to your finger to measure the amount of oxygen in your blood.
  • Pulmonary function tests. In this test, your doctor has you blow into a gadget called a spirometer, which measures just how much air your lungs can hold and how forcefully you can blow that air out.

How Bronchitis and Pneumonia Are Treated

Treatments for both bronchitis and pneumonia depend on the underlying cause, such as whether it’s bacterial or viral.

Bacterial pneumonia and severe bronchitis are both treated with antibiotics. For viral cases, your doctor may recommend an antiviral drug. However, they’ll likely suggest you get a couple of days of rest and beverage lots of fluids while you recover.

If you have chronic bronchitis, your doctor may prescribe a breathing treatment or steroid drug that you inhale into your lungs. The medication assists to reduce inflammation and clear mucus from your lungs.

For more severe cases, your doctor might also recommend extra oxygen to assist you breathe. It’s also essential to prevent smoking or exposure to the compound that triggered your bronchitis.

Regardless of the cause, follow these suggestions to speed up your recovery time:

  • Get a lot of rest.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to loosen up the mucus in your lungs. Water, clear juices, or broths are the best options. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can be dehydrating.
  • Take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory to minimize a fever and soothe body aches.
  • Switch on a humidifier to loosen up the mucus in your lungs.
  • Ask your doctor about using an over-the-counter cough treatment if your cough is keeping you up during the night or making it hard to sleep.

When to See a Doctor

If you seem like you have either bronchitis or pneumonia, it’s constantly a great idea to check in with your doctor. If the underlying cause is bacterial, you need to start feeling much better within a day or 2 of beginning antibiotics.

Otherwise, call your doctor if your cough or wheezing doesn’t improve after 2 weeks.

You ought to likewise look for instant medical care if you discover:

  • blood in your phlegm.
  • a fever over 100.4 ° F that lasts for more than a week.
  • shortness of breath.
  • chest pain.
  • extreme weakness.

The Bottom Line

Pneumonia and acute bronchitis are usually short-lived infections. You can often treat them yourself at home, and they must improve within a week or more. Nevertheless, you may have a lingering cough for numerous weeks.

Chronic bronchitis is a long-term condition that requires ongoing treatment. If your symptoms are severe or they don’t go away after a number of weeks, see your doctor for treatment.

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