Bronchiolitis Vs Bronchitis: Differences Based on Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prognosis, Risk Factors and Diagnosis

Bronchiolitis and Bronchitis, both are lung infections and they have similar sounding names. However, they are not the same illness. Though, both these conditions affect airways that lead to the lungs, however; Bronchiolitis affects primarily young children, while bronchitis is more common in older children. Read below to know more about the differences between the two.

Bronchiolitis Vs Bronchitis

Bronchiolitis Vs Bronchitis: Basic Differences

Bronchiolitis affects, almost only younger children, most of them being under the age of 2 years. This condition occurs when there is swelling in the smallest airways in the lungs, known as Bronchioles, obstructing them and making it more difficult for breathing. In some toddlers and younger children, Bronchiolitis is not more severe than a common cold. However, in some cases, it can be dangerous and may require immediate medical attention or hospitalization.

Bronchitis is a condition that can affect people of all ages, though it is most common in older children and in adults. This condition leads to inflammation and swelling in the trachea and the upper bronchial tubes. Bronchitis can either be acute or chronic bronchitis.

Bronchiolitis Vs Bronchitis: Differences Based On The Symptoms

There are some common symptoms in Bronchiolitis and bronchitis; such as, wheezing, coughing and slight fever. However, there are some other symptoms that are unique to each of these conditions.

In case of Bronchiolitis, there is dry and raspy cough, wheezing, slight fever, difficulty feeding (especially in infants), stuffy or runny nose. There may also be breathing difficulty, and toddlers may be uncharacteristically tired or irritable and they may eat less than half of their regular amount during the last several meals, they may also develop a bluish color to their face. In such case, you need to call your pediatrician on an immediate basis.

In case of Bronchitis, the symptoms may include cough, production of mucus, slight fever, shortness of breath, chills, chest tightness or discomfort and fatigue. You need to call your doctor if your cough lasts more than 3 weeks or if cough is accompanied by wheezing, bright yellow or greenish mucus (which may indicate an infection) or blood-tinned sputum.

Bronchiolitis Vs Bronchitis: Differences Based On The Causes

Both the infections of the lungs are caused by viruses. Bronchiolitis is typically caused by a viral infection. The respiratory syncytial virus causes more than 50% of all cases of bronchiolitis. Apart from this, the common cold or flu can also cause the condition.

Acute bronchitis is generally caused by viruses, especially the common cold and flu. The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is smoking cigarettes or being around lung irritants. Bronchitis is also caused by bacterial infections.

Bronchiolitis Vs Bronchitis: Differences Based On The Risk Factors

There are some risk factors in developing bronchiolitis and they include, babies those who are prematurely born, babies with lung, heart or immune conditions and also children who spend most of the time in day care.

There are also some risk factors for developing bronchitis, and they include regular exposure to irritants, gastric reflux (which can irritate the throat) and low immune resistance, especially after a virus or primary infection.

NOTE: it must be noted that being around cigarette smoke and other lung irritants can be a risk factor for developing both these conditions.

Bronchiolitis Vs Bronchitis: Differences Based On The Diagnosis

In case your doctor suspects that your child has Bronchiolitis, they will listen to the lungs using a stethoscope and will ask you about the child’s medical history and other symptoms. The doctor may also collect a mucus sample from your child for checking for viruses that may be associated with Bronchiolitis, run a blood test for checking the WBC count of the child and also perform chest X-rays that are almost used in diagnosing Bronchiolitis.

In case of bronchitis, the doctor will listen to the patient’s lungs using a stethoscope and ask about other symptoms. In case, the doctor suspects pneumonia, they may order a chest X-ray. This chest X-ray will also rule other conditions, such as lung cancer. Moreover, your doctor may also order sputums test so as to send it to the laboratory for a culture. The doctor may also advise the patient to take a pulmonary function test, which measures how well the patient’s lungs work and how well the patient can breathe.

Bronchiolitis Vs Bronchitis: Differences Based On The Treatments

Treatments for bronchiolitis and bronchitis are pretty different. Treatments for Bronchiolistis may include helping your baby sleep with their head slightly elevated, by putting a pillow under their mattress, making them drink more of fluids and water, and providing supplemental oxygen or IV fluids in case your child in hospitalized.

Treatments for bronchitis can include antibiotics for treating bacterial infections, cough medications, medications like steroids for reducing inflammatory due to other conditions such as asthma, medication by inhalation for opening up the airways. Apart from this, pulmonary rehabilitation for chronic bronchitis may be required, which includes a breathing exercise program.

Bronchiolitis Vs Bronchitis: Differences Based On The Prognosis

There are many cases of bronchiolitis, that are mild and can be treated easily, as they may not be more severe that the common cold. However, in case the condition is left untreated, it can result in recurrent wheezing and a reduced quality of life. These complications can last into the teenage years and the condition can be fatal if severe cases of bronchiolitis are left untreated.

Most children who are hospitalized, go home in 5 days, though some cases, they may require staying for up to a week in the hospital.

Bronchitis is a condition that is typically not a cause for concern. However, this can sometimes lead to complications such as pneumonia. So, never ignore bronchitis, especially if you have recurrent cases. This might indicate that you have some form of COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and this definitely requires prompt treatment.


We talked about some of the differences between bronchiolitis and bronchitis. Though there are treatments for both these conditions, you need to take care of self and try to prevent yourself from being encountered with Bronchiolitis or bronchitis. It must be noted that both these conditions can be prevented, by avoiding cigarette smoke and any other environmental irritants, by practicing good hygiene (which helps in reducing the risk of infections), by washing your hands frequently and encouraging your children to do the same and consulting your doctor in case you suspect any of these conditions. You can get vaccinated with the flu vaccine every year, for preventing bronchitis.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:May 23, 2018

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