Bronchitis and Pneumonia – Identification and Prevention

Bronchitis and Pneumonia

Bronchitis and pneumonia both can be dangerous. These problems are ultimately related to your lungs. They only vary in the degree of their infection and body part affected by them. It is also said that bronchitis can also be converted into pneumonia if you are not treated well. Let’s have a look at both the terms and understand their meanings and relationships.


Bronchitis is termed as an infection in the airways that are leading to your lungs. It is generally less severe or maybe acute in its occurrence. Bronchitis is mainly caused when there is an inflammation of bronchi. Bronchi is the branching tubes that are responsible for delivering the air in and out of the lungs. That’s the main organ which acts as an intermediate and medium of transfer in the breathing process.

Symptoms of bronchitis:

  • Constant coughing that is acquainted with clear, yellow or green sputum (the gunk you might take out while coughing up)
  • Feeling exhausted
  • Wheezing
  • A nose that is always stuffy and runny occurring
  • Chest congestion and discomfort in the middle of the chest due to cough
  • Shortness of breath usually followed with some coughing jag
  • Having minor fever

Having yellow or green sputum often indicates the bacterial infection. Don’t be fooled if you are noticing some more symptoms related to bronchitis. Bronchitis may be viral or bacterial in its occurrence.

As per Homer Boushey, M.D., a highly qualified lung specialist and professor emeritus of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, “most of the percentage that is around 80 to 90 percent of healthy people who are distressed from bronchitis is viral, not the bacterial. In its origin, and this is mostly the case when you observe that the symptoms of bronchitis are followed by cold”.

Viral infections cannot be cured by using antibiotics. In fact, it’s a known fact that antibiotics will tend to kill many of the healthy and protective bacteria in your body. That will soon leave you more vulnerable to the other disease-causing bacteria.

Acute bronchitis

It is sometimes hard to treat and will most probably take a period of around a week to 10 days. If you didn’t take any treatment it can irritate you for around 10-15 days. There is no guarantee that your cough filled with mucus will go. It is likely to persist for several more weeks to come. So be prepared for its harmful consequences.

According to a pulmonologist Len Horovitz, M.D., of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York bronchitis is, “It’s just a matter of the body cleaning up the mess and most of the people improve just fine from bronchitis.”


Pneumonia is also an infection that occurs inside any or both of the lungs. It occurs if you fail to treat bronchitis as when it is left untreated. The infection can soon transfer from the airways into the lungs. So pneumonia arises because of bronchitis if the patient fails to take appropriate treatment. There is an inflammation in the lungs. Mostly the symptoms are the same for both the infections, but the intensity of symptoms may vary.

Following is the list of symptoms of pneumonia:

  • Persistent and constant fever (often very high)
  • Coughing and having the spit of yellow or green mucus after coughing
  • Feeling chills that might cause your body to shake
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sharp pain inside your chest
  • Having a lot of Confusion that is your brain functioning is also affected (this symptom is primarily seen in older people)

As you have already observed that symptoms are much similar in many ways.  Pneumonia is a much more serious problem than acute bronchitis. It’s more often related to the bacteria than by a virus. This means that it can be cured using antibiotics. Bacterial pneumonia can be a hurting disease that needs your attention right away. You should always seek medical help in case of having the antibiotics. As intake before the consultation is life-threatening. Sometimes waiting too long can be dangerous as this disease when left untreated can badly affect your lungs and may lead to advanced pneumonia. It may then become very late. So, try to take the help of medical experts as soon as you notice some problem so that the problem is not escalated further.

Symptoms that occur only in severe pneumonia

There are definite symptoms that occur only in severe pneumonia and bronchitis does not show such symptoms. If you show or find any of the following symptoms, it’s a red signal that you should seek urgent medical attention:

  • You feel a significant struggle while breathing in or out the air
  • You feel a constant sensation that your chest is going to be crushed by something
  • The occurrence of constant coughing and that too shedding lots of blood with it
  • you notice a sudden change in the color of fingernails or lips and that too bluish in color

Causes of pneumonia and bronchitis

As both of these infections are related to the respiratory system in our body. That’s why its symptoms are often tough to differentiate, but the following paragraphs will definitely help you. They both disturb the lungs and that’s the reason, both have many symptoms in common. Although symptoms are similar in nature still they are the two different diseases that are having altogether different treatments. Let’s have a look at the differences in general.

There are generally four different categories of pneumonia. Each kind has a different cause related to it.

  • Bacterial pneumonia

It can be triggered by the bacteria named Streptococcus, Chlamydophila, or Legionella.

  • Viral pneumonia

It is generally caused by a respiratory virus.

  • Mycoplasma pneumonia

It is instigated by those tiny organisms that are neither bacterial in nature nor viral. But they have alike qualities of both kinds.

  • Fungal pneumonia

The reason for having fungal pneumonia is the fungi present in bird droppings or soil. You can get infected by it if you are exposed to such materials or breathe in large amounts of the fungi.

It is mainly the virus that leads to the occurrence of bronchitis. You will be surprised to know that this virus is most probably the same virus that is responsible for causing the common cold. But, Bacteria can also activate it. The cause of infection is never this bacteria in mycoplasma or fungi one. The two terms differ from each other in terms of their cause. So, we can say that untouched viral or bacterial bronchitis can be converted into viral or bacterial pneumonia.

What can be done to prevent pneumonia and bronchitis?

If you are already suffering from the infection of bronchitis, then you should be careful that it does not get converted into pneumonia. And, the most suitable way of preventing this situation is to diagnose and then treat the condition as soon as possible. Identifying the symptoms of bronchitis can assist you to get good treatment and also the health condition will become better sooner. Initial symptoms of bronchitis are parallel to those of a normal cold or the flu and they include sore throat, sneezing, wheezing, runny nose, tiredness, fatigue, fever of 100°F to 100.4°F (37.7°C to 38°C) and back and muscle aches.

You will then be followed by developing a dry and productive cough which will continue to irritate you after a few days. A productive cough is that cough which is followed by producing mucus. The color of mucus may vary from greenish to yellowish in color.

Bacterial bronchitis is more commonly gets converted into pneumonia than viral bronchitis. The reason for this is that the bacteria are found to multiply and spread easily in our bodies.

In some situations, it’s still thinkable to suppress the occurrence of pneumonia even if you are already consuming the antibiotics to cure bronchitis. This is because antibiotics are the specialized medicines that are very specifically and carefully chosen for the bacteria they are focusing on. If you are taking some antibiotics for the treatment of one type of bacteria, the treatment of pneumonia to be caused by another type of bacteria is still possible using the same antibiotics.

Your medical expert will only recommend antibiotics if you are diagnosed with bacterial bronchitis as antibiotics cannot be used to cure viral bronchitis or any other virus.


To protect yourself and your family against bacterial pneumonia, there are two pneumonia vaccines available in the market that is recommended when if you are an old person that is the age is 65 or older. Also, If you are suffering from health problems like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or diabetes or you are indulged in smoking, there are more chances that you will likely need one of the vaccines at an earlier age. So, consult your medical expert if you are having any of the above-mentioned problems or diseases.

Good hygiene practices are always a good idea if you want to stay away from such vulnerable diseases. That’s why for reducing your chances of receiving acute bronchitis, always practice good hygiene. That basically means washing the hands before and after meals or bathing daily or cleaning houses daily, especially for the kids who are always the easy prey of such microorganisms.

It’s true that we love our grandchildren, but they are the easy and unnoticeable transferors and transferees of various dangerous viruses. So, always look that they are involved in washing their hands frequently. Also while they are sneezing or coughing, they should cover it with their handkerchief or into their elbows, not with their hands if the tissues are not available. These simple measures are easy to follow but they are important and play a positive role in preventing such communicable diseases.

We should try to wash our dirty hands before every time you are going to touch your face as you are always introduced to such infection-causing germs through your nose, your mouth or your eyes. That’s the reason you should be careful while touching your face. Your hands are even dirtier than the sewer, so be careful with your hands.

Lastly, if you are having gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), do not leave it untreated and get the appropriate treatment of it. The acid which is produced by this problem tends to irritate the airways in the lungs. That’s the reason it may become infected or have more chances of getting vulnerable because of viruses and bacteria.

When Does A Cold or Flu turn into a big problem for our lungs?

Cold, flu, bronchitis, pneumonia, all of them have the alike symptoms attached to them. That’s why even the cold and flu can add on various complications and this can turn into a dreadful night for us especially for the very young, the elderly, or people with weakened immune systems.

You should book an appointment with your doctor as early as possible if you experience any of the following symptoms of cold and flu:

Emergency visit

  • If your cough continues for a very long time especially when your cold or flu has gone a long time back.
  • If you have recurring fever especially that is more than 101°
  • If you are coughing constantly with thick mucus. Also, observe the color of mucus. Clear to the cloudy color of mucus is considered normal whereas the greenish or yellowish mucus is the sign of certain infection. It may be bacterial or viral that totally depends upon the condition of your throat and can be easily diagnosed by a doctor.
  • If you are coughing with blood or wheezing frequently.
  • If you are noticing the frequent occurrence of night sweats or chills.

While we are not the doctors and can only suggest the possible causes, symptoms, and prevention of this infection. But for the best diagnosis of the problem, your medical expert is the best resource person for making a conclusive identification of your illness and condition of your lungs. You can only keep an eye on the general symptoms at home if you suffering from a cold or the flu.

There are chances of such vulnerable diseases as our lifestyle is continuously changing. That’s why you should never ignore or underestimate how you feel inside your body. And if you are developing any of the doubts related to such a problem, it may be best for you to consult your doctor so that the problem is diagnosed early and we can rule out the occurrence of serious conditions.

Who all are the ones that can be the easy prey of pneumonia?

This disease can be grasped by anyone who does not practice good hygiene routine and eat unhealthy food on a regular basis. There are equal chances of developing this vulnerable problem after bronchitis but there are certain groups of people who are more prone to pneumonia. These groups are typically characterized by weakened and unmodified immune systems. So, following are the groups of people who may be at amplified danger for getting a pneumonia infection that is followed by bronchitis:

  • Children who are under the age of 2 or the people who are over the age of 65 (infants and old people)
  • The people who have or had a stroke in their lifetime
  • People who face difficulty or some problem while swallowing the food
  • People having bad medical history, for instance, suffering from asthma, diabetes, heart failure, cystic fibrosis or any other chronic medical conditions
  • Who is having very limited mobility
  • Who are consuming certain medications that have any ill effects on your immune system
  • Who are getting a treatment or therapy for cancer
  • People who are having the habit of smoking or drinking alcohol or taking certain illicit drugs

If you find that you are feeling the symptoms of pneumonia, you should contact immediate medical attention. The earlier you caught the symptoms, the more are the chances of easy recovery from it.

Untouched pneumonia can be escalated rapidly, so you should never delay it. Even if you are experiencing the symptoms that are relatively mild still, get it checked out by a doctor. The management for pneumonia depends upon its cause. There are many antibiotics, antiviral, and antifungal drugs available in the market to treat the different kinds of pneumonia. Your doctor may prescribe you the medicines after diagnosing the kind of pneumonia. Oral medicines are appropriate for the treatment of mild pneumonia. But if your symptoms have become uncontrollable or you might have other health concerns, you need to consult a medical expert.


Bacterial bronchitis can be converted into pneumonia if it’s not treated on time. But the mainstream of people reacts well to the treatment of pneumonia and recovers easily from it.

For some other people, the condition may become complicated and their condition might get worse than before. It is all because of other health conditions they might already suffering from. Pneumonia is a life-threatening disease and it cannot be taken so lightly by us. So meet your doctor if you suspect its probable symptoms.

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