Acute Bronchitis Vs. Pneumonia: What Are the Differences?

Q:
Acute bronchitis vs. pneumonia: What are the differences?

A:
Acute bronchitis is when your bronchial tubes, which carry air to your lungs, get infected and swollen, which lasts a few weeks and usually goes away on its own.

Symptoms
You may have various problems with breathing, such as:

  • Chest congestion, where your chest feels full or clogged
  • Coughing; Cough up a lot of mucus that’s clear, white, yellow, or green
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing or a whistling sound when you breathe

You may also have some of the typical cold or flu symptoms, such as:

  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Feeling wiped out
  • Low fever
  • Runny, stuffy nose
  • Sore throat

The cough can last for a few weeks as your bronchial tubes heal and the swelling goes down even after the other symptoms are gone.

Cause
Acute bronchitis is more common in winter and 9 out of 10 cases are caused by a virus. Irritants such as tobacco smoke, smog, chemicals in household cleaners, even fumes or dust in the environment can also cause acute bronchitis.

Treatment
Drink lots of fluids, get plenty of rest, and avoiding smoke and fumes to relieve the symptom. A non-prescription pain reliever may help with body aches. Your doctor may prescribe an expectorant to help loosen mucus so it can be more easily coughed up or an inhaled bronchodilator medicine to open your airways.

 

Pneumonia is also infection in your lungs, but instead of the bronchial tubes, you get it in tiny air sacs in your lungs called alveoli. It can be mild, but sometimes serious, especially for the very young, adults 65 or older, and people with weaker immune systems.

Symptoms
The most common symptoms of pneumonia are:

  • Cough which might brings up yellow, green, or even bloody mucus
  • Fever
  • Shaking chills
  • Shortness of breath for some people, which happens only when they climb stairs

You may also have:

  • Chest pain (you might get a stabbing or sharp pain that’s worse when you cough or take a deep breath)
  • Confusion (more common for adults 65 and older)
  • Run-down feeling
  • Headache
  • Heavy sweating and clammy, damp skin
  • Throwing up or feeling like you might

Cause
Pneumonia can be caused by:

  • Bacteria
  • Certain chemicals
  • Fungi
  • Mycoplasmas, which are like bacteria and give you milder symptoms called “walking pneumonia”
  • Viruses (the same ones that cause colds and the flu can also give you pneumonia)

As your body fights off the germs, your lung’s air sacs swell and may fill with fluid or pus, much like your bronchial tubes swell and fill with mucus when you have bronchitis.

Treatment
If it’s caused by bacteria, you’ll get an antibiotic. If it’s caused by a virus, you may get an antiviral drug. And if it’s really severe, you may need to go to the hospital, but that’s not common.

 

Keywords: acute bronchitis vs pneumonia

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.