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What Is the Difference Between Bronchitis And Pneumonia?

Bronchitis and pneumonia differ from each other.

Read on to know the difference between bronchitis and pneumonia along with key information related to both of them.

Many of us have found ourselves feverish and coughing.

The thing is coughing can be a symptom of many things.

In some cases, it is a symptom of two serious health concerns pneumonia and bronchitis.While both have similarities they also have multiple differences.

What is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is an inflammatory reaction on the lining of your bronchial tubes.

Coughing in this case often has thick mucus, which can be discolored.

A slight green, yellow or orange tint is normal.

A red or black tint means you have blood in your mucus and need to get into an emergency room immediately.

Not all doctors prescribe antibiotics for bronchitis; it depends on the type and severity.

In most cases, they will not prescribe them at all since the cause is often based on the virus.​

Types of Bronchitis

It is usually classified as acute and chronic.

Acute bronchitis is a common type and often occurs after a cold, flu or sinus infection.

The infection causes bronchial tubes to swell up. And when bronchial tubes are swelled up they are filled with mucus. This obstructs air supply to your lungs.

Acute bronchitis goes away once the inflammation is healed and the air supply to lungs is stored.

Some of the common symptoms of acute bronchitis include: Fever, shortness of breath, chest tightness or discomfort, wheezing, fatigue, dry coughing as well coughing with mucus, sore throat and body aches.(1,2,3)​

What does cause acute bronchitis?

The viral infection is the main cause of acute bronchitis.

The bacterial infection may cause acute bronchitis but over 90% of all the cases of acute bronchitis are non-bacterial.

Acute bronchitis is common in winter and mostly affects children who are lesser than 5 years old.(4)

Chronic bronchitis is a severe type of bronchitis.

It occurs when you have constant irritation or inflammation that lasts longer or coming back or that never goes away.​

What does cause chronic bronchitis?​

Smoking, second-hand smoking or breathing in an air-polluted ambiance for a longer period of time are most common causes of chronic bronchitis.

This type also comes with a phlegm cough. In some cases, the phlegm is harder to expel which makes this type more severe.

Chronic bronchitis also has recurring bouts for at least two years in a row.

A cough often lasts for at least three months, after the inflammation has healed. Chronic bronchitis is also a condition of the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.(5)

Generally, it affects people older than the age of 40 years.​

Some tips that help you out

A cause that can create multiple bouts of acute bronchitis that turns into chronic is an office work environment.

Since the air quality is often poor and over circulated it can carry the irritation around for months.

Think of the air vents in your home, have you cleaned them lately?

Consider getting your air ducts professionally cleaned annually to help get rid of built-up dust and microbes.

This will improve the air quality within your home and often you will find your health improves.

You also want to get your carpets deep cleaned as well as your furniture.

This will remove the dust and microbes on those surfaces as well.

Treatment for bronchitis is often nebulizer breathing treatments as well as many doctors will prescribe codeine cough syrup to help the person get rest.(6)

Since bronchitis is often a viral infection antibiotic will not help.​

​What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection that can occur in either one or both of the lungs.

This infection inflames the air sacs (also called alveoli). The inflammation causes pus in the air sacs which troubles breathing and coughing.​

Image Source: Physicians Weekly

Pneumonia is common in children younger than 5 years and adults who are older than 65 years.

Also, people with certain diseases or conditions like diabetes, COPD, heart disease, kidney/liver disease or those with weaker immune systems tend to get affected by pneumonia easily.(7)

Some of the highly visible symptoms of pneumonia are chest discomfort during coughing or breathing, fatigue, chills, mental imbalance, shortness of breath, racing heart, loss of appetite etc.(8)

What causes pneumonia?

The predominant factors that cause pneumonia are bacteria, fungi, viruses and bacteria-like organisms.

They reach to lungs through the air we breathe.

However, our immune system fights with these germs most of the time but when they overpower our immune system they infect our lungs causing pneumonia​.

Types of pneumonia

Community-acquired pneumonia, this is the most common type of pneumonia.

Hospital-acquired pneumonia or ventilator-associated pneumonia is often associated with a hospital stay. You may be infected with while you are in the hospital for another reason or being treated. Those that use a ventilator often end up getting this type of pneumonia.

Aspiration pneumonia is when you inhale something other than air into your lungs.Things like food, drinks, vomit, and saliva are often behind this type of pneumonia. It has also an abscess in the lung cavity.

Walking pneumonia is when the infection is mild enough you can walk around with it.(9)​

Comparison between bronchitis and pneumonia

While bronchitis and pneumonia have differences they do share many things. But the thing is, bronchitis is often the less severe of the two. This is why doctors check to see if you have pneumonia or if you just have bronchitis.


  • Both have symptoms of fevers, chills coughing, mucus, and fatigue.
  • For both it is best to take rest and drink lots of fluids such as water and broth.
  • Both often make the person feel miserable making them stay on the bed. It is best that you take it easy and rest as much as possible.


  • Bronchitis is due to infection in bronchial tubes, but pneumonia is due to infection in air sacs (lungs)(10)
  • Bronchitis is mostly caused by viruses, but pneumonia is caused by bacteria, viruses and fungi.
  • You can have both at the same time, viral bronchitis and bacterial or fungal pneumonia.

Many find it easier to get rest when they are lying at a slant position with their heads elevated. This helps keep the coughing from bothering them as much.

It is always best to visit a doctor when you feel something is not right. Only a doctor can test to tell if you have pneumonia or bronchitis; you may also have both.​

Article Updated On: 07.07.2017

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