A lung infection is a very unpleasant experience. Characterized by common symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing, the many types of lung conditions – though equally debilitating – can be difficult to tell apart. Bronchitis vs pneumonia, for example, are two conditions that can be challenging to differentiate.
In this article, we’ll look at how bronchitis and pneumonia are alike and how they differ. Next, we’ll explore how these conditions are diagnosed, and what treatment looks like for each one.
Bronchitis vs Pneumonia: What’s The Difference?
Bronchitis is when your bronchial tubes experience swelling and inflammation. These tubes carry air to and from your lungs and facilitate normal breathing in their healthy state. When infected, however, they can carry less air, causing characteristic symptoms. There are two different kinds of bronchitis: acute bronchitis, which resolves on its own within a few weeks, and chronic bronchitis, which can be much more serious and persistent.
While pneumonia is also an infection, it does not affect the bronchial tubes. Instead, the numerous tiny sacs in your lungs that allow oxygen to pass into the blood – called alveoli – are affected. Due to infection, they can fill up with fluid or even pus, which can be very dangerous.
Symptoms of Bronchitis vs Pneumonia
Both bronchitis and pneumonia have some symptoms in common, such as:
- Chest congestion, which is a feeling of pressure or a “clogged” sensation
- Frequent coughing, accompanied by mucus which may be thick or discolored
- Shortness of breath and fatigue
You might also feel some familiar symptoms akin to a cold or flu:
- Body aches or headache
- Fatigue and general malaise
- Chills, which can be accompanied by sweating
- Sore throat
- A stuffy or runny nose
However, bronchitis sufferers often experience a wheezing noise as they breathe in and out. By contrast, while pneumonia sufferers also experience difficulty breathing, sharp, stabbing pain in the chest may occur while coughing or taking a deep breath.
Pneumonia can also be much more serious than bronchitis, particularly in older people or those with a weaker immune system. You might have a high fever, get shivering chills and sweat heavily.
Diagnosing Bronchitis vs Pneumonia
If you suspect you have bronchitis or pneumonia, you should call your doctor. Don’t wait; bronchitis can turn into pneumonia if not treated, which is much more difficult to treat.
Your doctor will examine your symptoms and ask you about your medical history. Because they have to figure out the cause and origin of your infection, they may ask you about your contact with sick people or animals, travel history, and your job. They will also listen to your lungs with a stethoscope to check for any unusual noises like bubbling or rumbling as you breathe.
If your doctor suspects you have bronchitis or pneumonia, they can order tests to verify their diagnosis. This may include a chest X-ray, testing a sample of your mucus, or blood tests. They may also order a bronchoscopy to see inside your airways and determine if there is anything wrong.
Once a doctor can confirm you have bronchitis or pneumonia, they can give you a treatment plan to help you recover from the illness. This will likely involve medication to ease pain and discomfort and help you sleep at night if your cough keeps you awake. Getting plenty of fluids and rest is also essential for recovery.
Remember, if you experience any symptoms, don’t hesitate to visit a qualified medical professional.
Pulmonary Medical Consultant is your best pulmonary physician and lung doctor in Tomball, Texas. We offer treatments for various pulmonary and lung issues, such as bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, and pulmonary embolism. We’re fully equipped to provide specialized, long-term care to patients, particularly those suffering from post-COVID pulmonary symptoms. If you have any questions or want to come in for an appointment, you can reach us at (281) 357-1300.