Bronchitis vs Pneumonia

No person wants to catch a respiratory infection that leaves the chest feeling tight or full of mucus. Often, a person will assume the ailment is bronchitis and look for a quick cure. However, not every respiratory infection is a result of this condition. In some cases, the culprit can be pneumonia or another cause. Knowing the signs of bronchitis and pneumonia can help people determine when to seek medical help for treatment.


What is bronchitis?

When the lining of the bronchial tubes in the lung becomes inflamed, a person is said to have bronchitis. The breathing ailment can be labeled as acute or chronic. Acute bronchitis is often referred to as a chest cold and usually goes away within 7-10 days with minimal lasting effects aside from a lingering cough. Chronic bronchitis can sometimes be a contributing factor to more severe breathing conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and is a more serious condition.

What is pneumonia?

Although pneumonia can feel similar to bronchitis, the illness impacts the lungs differently. Along with inflammation, the infection can encourage fluid to build in the lungs, making breathing difficult. Pneumonia can be caused by viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Of the 3, the bacterial variety is the most dangerous, and viral forms tend to resolve independently.

Symptom comparison

Many of the symptoms exhibited by a person with bronchitis and pneumonia are similar, making at-home diagnosis difficult. In most cases, pneumonia is only accurately diagnosed by a healthcare professional. Both conditions can cause fever, chills, and severe coughing. However, bronchitis also comes with wheezing, difficulty breathing, and a feeling of fullness in the stomach. Meanwhile, pneumonia can present with fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, sore throat, possibly bloody mucus, nausea, vomiting, and muscle aches.

Treating bronchitis

Most cases of bronchitis usually get better with time and don’t require medical intervention. However, for people with a bacterial bronchitis infection, physicians may recommend cough suppressants or additional medications if a person has an underlying condition such as COPD, asthma, or allergies. People with chronic bronchitis may require pulmonary rehabilitation or an exercise breathing program. Likewise, the chronic version may require lifestyle changes to achieve sustained relief.

Pneumonia treatment

Typically, the type of pneumonia a person has will dictate what treatments are recommended. Many solutions exist, including antibiotics, antiviral medications, antifungal medications, oxygen therapy, starting intravenous (IV) fluids, and even draining fluids if the chest is too full. Similar to bronchitis, viral pneumonia often resolves without needing medications. Likewise, a lingering cough can last for several weeks, even if a person feels better.

Ask a professional

Trying to make an armchair diagnosis when a person isn’t sure whether bronchitis or pneumonia is present can be a dangerous game to play. Pneumonia can escalate quickly to a severe level. Rather than guessing, people that suspect a respiratory infection has taken place should seek medical attention to get a proper diagnosis and receive treatment.