Knowing the Difference Between Bronchitis and Pneumonia

Bronchitis and pneumonia are both respiratory ailments that share several similar symptoms. It is one reason why many people including myself often confuse bronchitis vs pneumonia. Needless to say, they are two conditions you want to prevent. But despite some similarities, there are also considerable differences between the two and understanding these differences is vital for their early detection, diagnosis and treatment.


Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes which serve as airways to the lungs. Bronchitis can be either acute or chronic. Pneumonia, on the other hand, is an infection in the lungs which can be life-threatening if it affects children or the elderly.


Symptoms may vary between acute and chronic bronchitis. For acute cases, they include wet cough that can bring up clear, yellowish or green mucus. Wheezing cough is not uncommon together with low-grade fever, abdominal or chest discomfort during coughing and shortness of breath. As for chronic bronchitis, coughing may end up longer, sometimes taking weeks or even months. Patients may also suffer from worsening productive cough and frequent colds.

Patients suffering from pneumonia may also show different symptoms, depending on the cause of the condition. Bacterial pneumonia may come suddenly or gradually. The cough may also bring out rust-colored or green sputum from the lungs. In severe cases, patients may also suffer from chattering teeth, shaking chills, high fever, shortness of breath and chest pain.

If the cause of pneumonia is viral, symptoms are more like that of flu. Symptoms may include fever, headache, weakness, dry cough, and muscle pain. Shortness of breath is also expected within the next 36 hours after infection and it could get worse if not treated. Breathing may also become more difficult and to some extent, the lips can turn blue.

Lastly, there are people who suffer from mycoplasma pneumonia or more commonly known as walking pneumonia. This type of pneumonia has mild symptoms which include fever, headache, cough and malaise which usually appear gradually.

When a Doctor Is Needed

Whether it is bronchitis or pneumonia, call your doctor in case of:

  • High fever with a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If the patient is an infant or a child, such condition requires emergency attention.
  • Shaking chills
  • Cough that causes you to have disrupted sleep
  • Cough that lasts more than three weeks
  • Cough that comes with blood or green or yellow mucus
  • Wheezing cough
  • Chest pain whenever you take a deep breath or are coughing

In addition, if the patient is already coughing with large amounts of blood, has severe breathing difficulty, or has lips and fingernails that turn blue, call emergency service right away as these symptoms may be a sign of a life-threatening condition.

While there are available pneumonia or bronchitis remedies that include natural products and over-the-counter medications, it would be good to consult your doctor first before taking any remedies. Home remedies and medications may not be effective unless there is a correct diagnosis for your condition.