Respiratory health Data Verified

Bronchitis vs. Pneumonia - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnoses, Treatments, and Prevention

Published on May 14, 2019 and last reviewed on Feb 19, 2020   -  6 min read


Bronchitis and pneumonia both are lung conditions and cause similar symptoms, so it becomes difficult to tell them apart. Both these illnesses affect the airways and cause cough and discomfort.

Bronchitis vs. Pneumonia - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnoses, Treatments, and Prevention

Most people recover quickly from a cold and flu, but in some, it might lead to bronchitis or pneumonia. Bronchitis and pneumonia both are lung conditions and cause similar symptoms, so it becomes difficult to tell them apart. Both these illnesses affect the airways and cause cough and discomfort. It is crucial to differentiate between them so that proper treatment can be administered.

Can Cold or Flu Cause Bronchitis or Pneumonia?

Bronchitis and pneumonia are both complications of a cold and flu or more specifically complications of the upper respiratory tract infection. So get immediate medical attention if you experience the following symptoms:

To understand the difference between bronchitis and pneumonia, I have discussed the causes, symptoms, and treatment of bronchitis and pneumonia separately.

What Is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is the inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which are the tubes that carry air to the lungs. It can occur from viral, bacterial, or environmental causes. The two types of bronchitis are:

  1. Acute Bronchitis - The infection lasts for a few weeks and resolves on its own, and it is caused mostly by viruses and sometimes by bacteria.

  2. Chronic Bronchitis - It is usually caused by smoking. Here, the inflammation can last for several months at a time. The cough should be present for more than 3 months for it to be diagnosed as chronic bronchitis.

What Is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is the inflammation of the air sacs (alveoli) in one or both lungs. The alveoli get filled with fluid or pus and cause symptoms like cough and fever. This inflammation can be caused by viral, bacterial, or fungal infection. It can also be potentially fatal in children, older men (age above 65 years), and immunocompromised individuals. Depending on the cause, the types of pneumonia are:

  1. Bacterial Pneumonia - Pneumococcal pneumonia caused by Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria is the most common type of bacterial pneumonia.

  2. Viral Pneumonia - Can be caused by Influenza virus.

  3. Mycoplasma Pneumonia - Such pneumonia is caused by mycoplasma, which has characteristics of both viruses and bacteria.

  4. Fungal Pneumonia - Can be caused by Pneumocystis jiroveci fungus.

What Causes Bronchitis?

Usually, the virus that causes cold and flu (Influenza virus) also results in bronchitis. Sometimes, bacteria can also cause it. In both viral or bacterial infection, to fight this infection the body produces more mucus, and bronchial tubes get inflamed. This results in narrowing of the airway and makes breathing difficult.

What Causes Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is caused by bacteria, environmental chemicals, fungus, mycoplasmas, and viruses. Like bronchitis, the body produces more mucus, and the alveoli swell up as they fill with pus or fluid.

What Are the Symptoms of Bronchitis?

Both acute and chronic bronchitis causes symptoms like:

What Are the Symptoms of Pneumonia?

The severity of the symptoms depends on the cause and your overall health. Some of the common symptoms are:

How Is Bronchitis Diagnosed?

Your doctor will listen to your lungs as you breath using a stethoscope. If needed, the doctor might suggest you get the following tests done to rule out other possible causes:

How Is Pneumonia Diagnosed?

Your doctor will listen for bubbling or crackling sound using a stethoscope, which is characteristic for pneumonia. Additionally, your doctor will suggest you get the following tests done:

How Is Bronchitis Treated

Acute bronchitis usually gets better without treatment in about 2 weeks. Your doctor might suggest you do the following things:

  1. Antibiotics - As a viral infection mostly causes bronchitis, antibiotics are not effective. But if your tests come back positive for a bacterial infection, then your doctor might prescribe antibiotics.

  2. Cough suppressants - Bronchitis patients have a persistent cough, which might disturb their sleep. So, cough medicines are given at bedtime.

  3. Anti-inflammatory - If you have COPD or asthma, your doctor might prescribe anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce the inflammation of your airway.

How Is Pneumonia Treated?

Depending on the severity and cause, pneumonia is usually treated by:

How Can Bronchitis Be Prevented?

Bronchitis can be prevented by:

How Can Pneumonia Be Prevented?

Vaccines are available for bacterial pneumonia. It is recommended for the following people to get vaccinated to prevent pneumonia:

Both pneumonia and acute bronchitis can be effectively treated with rest and proper medication. You will get better in a couple of weeks, but the cough will be there for several weeks. If your cough and other symptoms are getting worse even after a week, consult a pulmonologist online. Chronic bronchitis needs long-term treatment.


This is a sponsored Ad. icliniq or icliniq doctors do not endorse the content in the Ad.

Last reviewed at:
19 Feb 2020  -  6 min read


1 review   16


Comprehensive Medical Second Opinion.Submit your Case

Related Questions & Answers

Am I suffering from pneumonia?

Query: Hi doctor, I am having fever for about a month now. So, I have done a master health checkup and the report shows raised PLBS 184, SGPT 121, LDL 112 and fatty liver. My chest x-ray PA view shows right lower zone soft tissue opacity. Because of the soft tissue opacity fever pack, thyroid profile, bloo...  Read Full »

How is pneumonia diagnosed?

Query: Hello doctor, My daughter is suffering from cough for the past four weeks. She started it out very gently and it is getting worse. Last weekend she was coughing almost non-stop. I took her to a Walk-in clinic and they gave her a cough syrup and an antibiotic. I was told to start the antibiotic four ...  Read Full »

Why do I feel sharp pain when anything cold touches my filled tooth?

Query: Hello doctor, I had my filling two years ago and it has been going well for a few months. I have had no problem with it but recently anything really cold touches it and I get a sharp pain. Hot foods cause no problem and sometimes it just hurts by itself.  Read Full »

Popular Articles Most Popular Articles

Do you have a question on Chest X- Ray or Cough Suppressants?

Ask a Doctor Online

* guaranteed answer within 4 hours.

Disclaimer: Alternative medicine is not aimed to replace the services of your treating physician or allopathy medicines. Our site’s information is to those who are willing to take responsibility for their health, being fully aware that the content published herein would not qualify as prescription or specific medical advice. If users use the information and stop prescribed medication without their physician’s consent, they bear full responsibility for their actions and iCliniq bears no responsibility for the same. Information on alternative medicine should not be misinterpreted as a cure for any illness, as our body is complex and everyone reacts differently.

Disclaimer: No content published on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, advice or treatment by a trained physician. Seek advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with questions you may have regarding your symptoms and medical condition for a complete medical diagnosis. Do not delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this website.