Both pneumonia and bronchitis exhibit similar symptoms like coughing, wheezing and high levels of mucus production. A discernible difference between the two can therefore be hard to detect. It is imperative to obtain a proper diagnosis, however, since pneumonia can sometimes be fatal if ignored or left untreated.
Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes (airways for the lungs). It is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection in the inner walls of the bronchi. External agents like secondhand smoke, pollutants, allergens and tobacco can also be causes of bronchitis. It comes in two forms: acute and chronic. The acute form only last a few days or weeks and is usually curable through basic antibiotics or simply by the body’s immune system. The chronic form is more serious as it last several months and often reoccurs several times within a couple years.
Pneumonia is an infection of one or both lungs. It is caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi and is contracted when an individual inhales one or more of these agents. It is often detectable by the sound of intense rattling or crackling in the chest during respiration. It occurs often in people over the age of 65 or in individuals with weak or susceptible immune systems.
Unlike bronchitis, pneumonia is often associated with shaking chills, chattering teeth and fevers that exceed 102 degrees. If someone has pneumonia, he may also cough up blood in addition to mucus. Bronchitis does not usually require hospitalization, as symptoms pass over time or are quelled through antibiotics. Pneumonia on the other hand will often require hospitalization as respiratory infections begin to interfere with breathing. These infections can also enter the bloodstream and spread to other organs.
Pneumonia more often results in extreme lung complications. Lung abscesses and pleural effusion are two of these. Lung abscesses are pus-filled cavities that form in the infected lobes of the lungs. Pleural effusion occurs when internal fluid builds between the lungs and chest wall, interfering with breathing.
As mentioned earlier, treatment for bronchitis is simple and straightforward. Speak with a doctor to determine the exact cause of bronchitis and take prescription antibiotics if necessary. Avoid air pollutants and allow your body as much rest as possible. For pneumonia, antibiotics or antiviral medication may be prescribed depending on the cause. If symptoms worsen, hospitalization, intravenous antibiotics and a breathing apparatus may be required to aid respiration. Hospitalization usually lasts around three to four days depending on the severity and symptoms of pneumonia.
Both bronchitis and pneumonia cause the body to expel yellow, green or gray mucus (known as sputum) through coughing. However, see a doctor immediately if you are experiencing trouble breathing accompanied by a high fever and chills or begin vomiting sputum. These are early signs of pneumonia and should be treated to avoid respiratory failure. Try to avoid airborne agents that would aggravate symptoms (such as smoke) and do not chew tobacco or drink alcohol if you are experiencing trouble breathing.