Pneumonia vs Bronchitis: When To See a Doctor

pneumonia vs bronchitis

Differences Between Bronchitis and Pneumonia

It’s hard to tell the difference between bronchitis and pneumonia because they share many symptoms. Bronchitis is when your bronchial tubes, which carry air to your lungs, get infected and swollen. These are the two kinds of bronchitis:

  • Acute bronchitis. This lasts a few weeks and usually goes away on its own.
  • Chronic bronchitis. This is more serious, and you’re more likely to get it if you smoke.

Pneumonia is also a lung infection, but instead of the bronchial tubes, you get it in tiny air sacs in your lung called alveoli. It can be mild, but sometimes serious, especially for the very young, adults 65 and older, and those with weakened immune systems.

Bronchitis vs. Pneumonia Symptoms

Both bronchitis and pneumonia are serious conditions that can be life-threatening if not treated. Their symptoms are similar, but there are differences in how long they last. If you experience any of the symptoms described below, make sure to seek medical attention as soon as possible. 

  • Bronchitis Symptoms
    • Cough lasting more than three weeks
    • Production of clear, green, or yellow mucus
    • Fatigue
    • Shortness of breath
    • Slight fever and chills
    • Chest discomfort
  • Pneumonia Symptoms
    • High fever, up to 105°
    • Coughing up greenish, yellow, or bloody mucus
    • Chills that make you shake
    • Feeling like you can’t catch your breath
    • Fatigue
    • Loss of appetite
    • Sharp or stabbing chest pain (you might feel this more when you cough or take a deep breath)
    • Sweating
    • Fast breathing and heartbeat
    • Lips and fingernails turning blue
    • Confusion (in older people)

Bronchitis vs. Pneumonia Treatment

The first step in treating bronchitis or pneumonia is to get diagnosed. If you’re experiencing some of the symptoms described above, make an appointment today. 

  • Bronchitis treatment. The treatment for your bronchitis will depend on what type of bronchitis you have. If you have acute bronchitis, you might not need any treatment or you can take over-the-counter medications. If you have a bacterial infection, your doctor might prescribe antibiotics. If you have chronic bronchitis, your treatment will be different. Chronic bronchitis is considered to be chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and isn’t curable. The symptoms can be treated in a variety of ways, including drugs, oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation, surgery, or a combination of these. 
  • Pneumonia treatment. The treatment for pneumonia will depend on whether it’s bacterial, viral, or fungal pneumonia. 
    • Bacterial pneumonia. This is usually treated with antibiotics. Your doctor may also prescribe medicines for pain and fever. Ask your doctor if you should take a cough suppressant because it’s important to cough to clear your lungs. 
    • Viral pneumonia. There are no treatments for most cases of viral pneumonia, but if the flu is thought to be the cause, antiviral drugs might be prescribed. Other medicines and therapies may be recommended, including breathing treatments and exercises to loosen mucus.
    • Fungal pneumonia. If fungus is the cause of your pneumonia, antifungal medications will be prescribed.

When to See a Doctor for Bronchitis

Call your doctor if your cough:

  • Brings up mucus that thickens or darkens in color
  • Keeps you awake at night
  • Lasts more than three weeks

Also, call your doctor if you have a cough and:

  • A foul-tasting fluid in your mouth (this could be reflux)
  • Fever over 100.4°
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath

When to See a Doctor for Pneumonia

Call your doctor if you have a cough that won’t go away or you’re coughing up pus, or you’re experiencing these symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • A fever that stays at 102° or higher
  • Shaking chills
  • Shortness of breath as you go about your day
  • Trouble breathing
  • Unable to keep liquids down

If you think you may have bronchitis or pneumonia, make an appointment at Baptist Urgent Care or learn more about walking pneumonia here

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