Bronchitis and Pneumonia

Common infections that cause inflammation in the lungs will produce similar symptoms with varying degrees of severity. It’s necessary to differentiate between the most prevalent to know whether your condition is serious enough to warrant emergency care.

What’s the Difference?

Bronchitis and Pneumonia

Most cases of bronchitis are caused by viruses and are classified as acute. Some people suffer from a chronic form that recurs several times per year. Any weakness in your immune system puts you at higher risk for contracting the disease.

Pneumonia can develop independently or as the consequence of another condition. Bacteria are the most common cause, but viral and fungal types also exist. High-risk groups include young children and seniors.

Characteristic Symptoms

The most recognizable symptom of bronchitis is a hacking cough that causes pain in the lungs. Other symptoms include:

  • Rattling sound when coughing
  • Congestion
  • Headaches and muscle aches
  • Production of mucus that is either clear, white, yellow or green
  • Congestion
  • Sore throat

If you have pneumonia, you may also experience:

  • Fever
  • Sweating or chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid breathing or heartbeat
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Digestive disturbances

Symptoms of either disease that persist or grow progressively worse should be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible.


Doctors often perform chest X-rays in addition to physical exams to diagnose lung infections and rule out more serious conditions. Tests may also be done on mucus or fluid from the lungs. Bacterial pneumonia is treated with antibiotics, and the duration of viral strains can be shortened with antiviral drugs. If you have a severe case, you may be admitted to the hospital.

Viral bronchitis is commonly treated with home care, such as resting, drinking adequate fluids, running a humidifier and taking over-the-counter cough suppressants or fever reducers as necessary.

The easiest way to know what kind of lung infection you have is to see your doctor. If you’re experiencing severe symptoms or your child contracts an infection when your regular care provider is unavailable, head to an urgent care center. Catching and treating the illness early can help prevent complications and support faster recovery.

Get treatment now