Have you ever felt like you had a cold that you just couldn’t shake? It seemed you did everything possible under the sun from drinking a river of fluids, getting plenty of rest, even taking vitamin C and you still had a sore throat, nagging cough and felt unusually sluggish and feverish. It’s possible you didn’t have a cold, but rather pneumonia or even bronchitis.
But because they share such similar symptoms, how can you tell the difference between the two illnesses?
Let’s take a closer look.
Causes of Bronchitis and Pneumonia
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs; bronchitis is an infection of the airways that lead to the lungs. Bronchitis can occur after a viral illness, such as the cold or flu and it is usually viral, meaning that antibiotics are not helpful with treatment. Some individuals with bronchitis are at an increased risk for getting pneumonia, which is usually more severe.
Symptoms of Bronchitis and Pneumonia
Although both illness have bothersome symptoms, people with pneumonia usually feel a lot worse than those with bronchitis.
Bronchitis- Painful, persistent dry cough at first. May produce mucus after a few days.
Pneumonia- Wet, productive cough that often brings up mucus from the lungs. The cough is frequently painful.
Bronchitis- Phlegm may be clear, yellow, green or even tinged with blood.
Pneumonia- Mucus may be green, rusty or tinged with blood.
Bronchitis- Typically a fever is mild or not present at all.
Pneumonia- Fevers are often higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bronchitis- It can resolve with one to three weeks, but the cough may linger for weeks or months.
Pneumonia- May last longer than two to three weeks.
Bronchitis- X-rays will usually appear normal.
Pneumonia- X-rays will usually appear abnormal.
Bronchitis- Sore throat, chest pain, chest congestion, wheezing, body aches.
Pneumonia- Chills, shaking, fast heart rate, headache.
Am I Contagious?
One of the most common questions about pneumonia and bronchitis is if it is contagious.
Is Pneumonia Contagious?
Pneumonia is usually caused by an infection, most commonly bacteria and viruses, which are both contagious. The germs are usually breathed in from coughing and sneezing or touching an object and transferring the germs.
Is Bronchitis Contagious?
Since acute bronchitis is usually caused by the cold or flu virus, that makes it just as contagious for a few days to a week. Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, is not contagious.
Like the common cold and flu, however, you can prevent the spread of pneumonia and bronchitis by taking hygiene precautions such as washing your hands regularly and using a tissue to cough or sneeze.
Treatment for Pneumonia and Bronchitis
As you can see, pneumonia and bronchitis both cause coughs and have similar symptoms. But they require significantly different treatments and only your health care professional can diagnose your illness to determine what treatment option is right for you. If you or a loved one is experiencing a persistent or severe cough that interferes with daily activities and sleep, have a high fever or your symptoms continue to worsen, visit eMedical Urgent Care immediately.
And remember, after treatment allow yourself time to recover, drink plenty of hydrating fluids and take the prescribed medications through to completion.