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Bronchitis vs Pneumonia: Everything You Need to Know

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When a cold or the flu strikes, you generally know what’s going to happen. It might start with a scratch at the back of the throat. You begin to feel exhausted, and before you know it, you’re sitting in front of the television with a box of Kleenex.

Your cough isn’t going away, and you’re in a bad mood. Are you experiencing bronchitis? Is it pneumonia? Bacteria or viruses that cause respiratory infections can cause both pneumonia and bronchitis. So how can you tell them apart?

The only distinction between these two illnesses, although you may not notice it without expert advice, is which section of the respiratory system it affects.

How to spot the difference? 

Bronchitis and pneumonia might be hard to differentiate based just on congestion and cough. These two illnesses, however, have quite distinct origins, symptoms, and therapies.

Bronchitis and pneumonia both induce a cough that occasionally produces phlegm, a thick sort of mucus produced in your chest. However, the intensity of symptoms makes a significant impact. Pneumonia symptoms are often more severe than bronchitis symptoms, and pneumonia seems more like a systemic illness with a fever or chills.

Bacteria or viruses that cause respiratory infections can cause both pneumonia and bronchitis. If the cause is known to be bacterial, then your doctor will most likely provide you with an antibiotic, most likely sulfatrim pediatric, which is a combination of two – sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim. However, if it is caused by a viral infection or any other origin this medication won’t be prescribed. 

Bronchitis affects just the bronchial tubes that carry air to your lungs, whereas pneumonia starts and progresses deeper in your lung tissues. In addition, fungal infections and aspiration can both cause pneumonia (inhaling something, like food or saliva, into your lungs).

Additional information about bronchitis

Bronchitis is a respiratory illness that primarily impacts the upper airways, which are used to transport air to and from your lungs. Bronchitis patients frequently cough up thicker mucus. 

It can appear in an acute or chronic form and the symptoms differ depending on which type of bronchitis is in question. Acute bronchitis, which is caused by infection or inflammation, normally resolves on its own within a few weeks. On the other hand, chronic bronchitis is a long-term inflammation in your lungs, that lasts at least three months. 

Acute bronchitis symptoms are quite similar to those of an upper respiratory infection, such as fatigue, sore throat, chills, fever, body aches, and so on. When you cough, you may see your phlegm has turned green or yellow. 

Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, causes a continual cough that lasts for an extended period of time. Shortness of breath, wheezing, weariness, and chest pain are also symptoms.

Additional information about pneumonia 

Pneumonia is mainly caused by a virus, bacterium, or fungus, but can also be caused by inhaling irritants. You can get pneumonia if these microorganisms or irritants penetrate the alveoli in your lungs.

Pneumonia may be classified into numerous categories based on the underlying cause. It is most often caused by bacteria. But there are a few other classifications of this infection as well.  Pneumococcal pneumonia is the most frequent kind of bacterial pneumonia caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium.

A virus, such as influenza, causes viral pneumonia. Mycoplasma pneumonia is caused by mycoplasma pneumoniae, which are small organisms with features of both viruses and bacteria. Finally, fungi, such as Pneumocystis jiroveci, cause fungal pneumonia.

Anyone can get pneumonia, but certain people are at a higher risk since this infection sometimes requires hospitalization to be treated. Smokers, people over the age of 60, and people suffering from diseases such as asthma are at a higher risk. 

The symptoms, which can range from mild to severe, include fatigue, nausea accompanied by a very high fever of 105°F, as well as many other symptoms such as confusion, blue lips due to lack of oxygen, and chest pain when breathing deeply. 

Final thoughts 

It’s always a good idea to see your doctor if you suspect you have bronchitis or pneumonia. If the underlying reason is bacterial, you should feel significantly better within a day or two of beginning antibiotics.

Otherwise, if your coughing or wheezing hasn’t improved after two weeks, make sure you consult your doctor.

Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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