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Bronchiolitis vs Bronchitis – How to Differentiate between Them?

May 30, 2022 | Blog

Although they are phonetically similar, bronchiolitis vs. bronchitis, as a health condition, they have vast differences. They are 2 distinct kinds of lung infections that strike children and adults; let’s dig in deeper to better understand.

This blog will help you identify bronchiolitis vs bronchitis with distinct signs and symptoms, along with their treatment.

Bronchiolitis vs. Bronchitis Difference

Bronchiolitis is when your bronchioles (tube-like small airways) go under inflammation and swelling on the inside.

Most of the time, bronchiolitis prevails in young children and is seen in infants and toddlers that are under 2 years of age.

They have difficulty in breathing. However, the symptoms are worse than the common cold.

When medium to large tubes undergo inflammation resulting in cough, it is bronchitis. This condition mostly hits older children as well as adults. This is inflammation of the trachea may be chronic or acute.

Bronchiolitis Vs Bronchitis Symptoms

When it comes to signs and symptoms, both bronchiolitis and bronchitis are similar. So, their identification is not a piece of cake.

Symptoms of Bronchiolitis

  • Dry cough
  • Wheezing
  • Feeding difficulties in infants
  • Fever
  • Nose troubles – stuffy or runny

Bronchitis Symptoms

  • Productive cough
  • Excess mucus
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Slight fever
  • Chills or shivering
  • Fatigue
  • Chest tightness

Causes – Bronchiolitis vs. Bronchitis

The main reason for both conditions is a virus. However, the ones causing it are different.

When we talk about bronchiolitis, the culprit is RSV – respiratory syncytial virus or the common cold. Although, sometimes, this disease may also be bacterial.

The germ which causes the common cold or flu is the reason for acute bronchitis in people. Moreover, if that not the case, then is smoking cigarettes or having in a lung-irritant environment may induce it.

Bronchiolitis Vs Bronchitis – Diagnosis

Your pulmonologist is the best person to differentiate between bronchiolitis and bronchitis.

If the doctor thinks that it is bronchiolitis, they will get a chest X-ray of your child. Moreover, a mucus and blood test may also be done.

Even in the case of bronchitis your doctor gets a chest X-ray for pneumonia.

Treatment of Bronchiolitis and Bronchitis

Treatment of both bronchiolitis and bronchitis is simple via home remedies or pairing with OTC medications, high fluid intake, and adequate rest.

However, if both become severe, their treatments differ.

Treatment for Bronchiolitis

  • Place a pillow under your child’s head or their mattress to elevate it as they sleep. This helps them breathe easily.
  • Always increase the intake of fluids.
  • After hospitalization, oxygen and IV fluids are given.

Treatment for Bronchitis
Antibiotics work really well if the bronchitis is bacterial. However, for symptomatic relief, follow these:

  • Cough syrup to maintain proper sleep.
  • Steroids for inflammation reduction.
  • Inhalers open up airways.
  • Breathing exercise for chronic bronchitis.


Both the conditions start off mild but gain severity if left untreated. Since their signs and symptoms are pretty similar, we advise getting a professional diagnosis for proper treatment. Contact Pulmonary Medical Consultants for a checkup. Call us at (281) 357-1300 or visit us at our clinic.


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