Bronchitis Vs Pneumonia: Differences Based on Types, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention, Duration, Prevalence

Both bronchitis and pneumonia are caused by an inflammation in the lungs. However, Bronchitis, is often viral, which Pneumonia is generally bacterial. There are some other noted differences between the two that have been listed below:

Bronchitis Vs Pneumonia

Bronchitis Vs Pneumonia: Basic Differences

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchi or the bronchial tubes, that carry air to the lungs. It can be caused by bacterial infection or a viral infections, and also by exposure to irritants such as smoke. Bronchitis are divided into two categories; namely, acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis.

However, Pneumonia is an infection of the lung tissues, which can result in the accumulation of fluid or pus within the alveoli or the air sacs of the lungs. It can be caused either by viruses, bacteria, parasites and other microorganisms.

Bronchitis Vs Pneumonia: Differences Based On The U.S Prevelance

In the U.S, annually there are 10 million cases of patients with bronchitis, with 70% of patients being older adults.

There are 4.8 million cases of Pneumonia annually in the U.S, and nearly 90, 000 Americans die of pneumonia every year. Women are at double the risk for pneumonia as compared to the men. Pneumonia is ranked the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S.

Bronchitis Vs Pneumonia: Differences Based On The Types

Bronchitis is primarily of two types, and they are Acute bronchitis and Chronic bronchitis. Acute bronchitis generally lasts for a week, while chronic bronchitis can last for more than 3 months. Chronic bronchitis is a type of COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and is usually characterized by a cough that persists for at least 3 months in one year, for two years in a row.

Pneumonia can be of several types, including viral pneumonia, bacterial pneumonia, community-acquired pneumonia, hospital-acquired pneumonia, Eosinophillic pneumonia, atypical pneumonia, Mycoplasma pneumonia, inhalation or aspiration pneumonia, chemical pneumonia and dust pneumonia.

Bronchitis Vs Pneumonia: Differences Based On The Causes

There are also differences between bronchitis and pneumonia, based on the causes. Bronchitis is caused by infection, usually viral infections, although it is known to be bacterial at times. The viral or bacterial infections cause inflammation in the mucus membranes in the bronchial passages. These irritated membranes swell and cause coughing. Viruses causing bronchitis are influenza A, influenza B, coronacirus, Parainfluenza, Rhinovirus and RSV. Bacterial infections are caused by; Bordetella pertussi, Chlamydia, H influenza, Katarrhalis, Mycoplasma, Moraxella, S. aureus or S. pneumoniae.

Pneumonia is also caused by an infection; however, it is more often the bacterial infection than viral. The infection causes inflammation of the lungs and because of this inflammation, the lung leaks fluids and shed dead cells, clogging up air sacks. As there is a fluid build up, the body does not get enough of the Oxygen. The organisms that are responsible for pneumonia infections include, S. pneumoniae and Mycoplasma pnemoniae.

Bronchitis Vs Pneumonia: Differences Based On Ths Risk Factors

Bronchitis can occur in case the patient has a prior upper respiratory infection, GERD or Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also based on the age and if the patient is smoking.

Risk factors for pneumonia includes, diabetes, age, heart disorders, COPD, bronchial obstruction, viral lung infections and intubation.

Bronchitis Vs Pneumonia: Differences Based On The Symptoms

In case of bronchitis, there are symptoms of dry cough that progresses to ‘Mucopurulent sputum”, there is mucus from the lungs, and the mucus is clear, green yellow or tinged with blood. Apart from this, there may also be slight or nonexistent of fever.

However, in the case of pneumonia, there may be slight fever or may exceed 101 F, burning feeling in the chest, wheezing, fatigue, and Cough that produces mucus. The mucus is rusty, green or tinged with blood.

Bronchitis Vs Pneumonia: Differences Based On The Duration It Last

Generally bronchitis lasts for 2-3 weeks, while pneumonia may last longer than 2-3 weeks.

Bronchitis Vs Pneumonia: Differences Based On The Severity

In case of bronchitis, only the elderly people may require a doctor’s visit, small children and people with compromised immune system may also require a strict medical attention.

In case of pneumonia, hospitalization is required for the elderly, those with risk factors and individuals with compromised immune systems.

Bronchitis Vs Pneumonia: Differences Based On The Diagnosis

The diagnosis of bronchitis begins with the examination of a sample of the sputum of the affected person, so as to detect whether the disease is caused by a bacteria or a virus. Blood tests are also performed for finding out the count of WBCs, as it provides crucial information regarding the severity and the type of infection. An elevated level of the Neutrophils suggests a bacterial infection, while an increase in the Lymphocytes level indicates a viral infection. There is a test named, Pulmonary function test that is employed for the diagnosis of Bronchitis, which measures how well the patient’s lungs are working.

The diagnosis of pneumonia also begins with the examination of a sample of the sputum of the affected individual, so as to know whether the disease is caused by bacteria or virus. Apart from this, an X-ray of the chest is carried out, in case pneumonia is suspected. Sometimes, Bronchoscopy is carried out in case of pneumonia, for examining the air passages. This is an invasive test that is performed, if the patient’s condition has worsened during the course of treatment, or in case the patient has a severely compromised immune system, because of some underlying medical condition.

Bronchitis Vs Pneumonia: Differences Based On The Treatments

For treatment bronchitis, there are no antibiotics required, unless it is caused by bacteria. In some cases, oral steroids and supplemental oxygen may be given to the patients.

However, in order to treat pneumonia, antibiotics are essential. In some cases of pneumonia, the patients may require supplemental oxygen.

Bronchitis Vs Pneumonia: Differences Based On The Prevention

Bronchitis cannot be really prevented as such. However, the risk of contracting bronchitis can be reduced by getting a flu vaccination, by avoiding exposure to bacteria and irritants such as dust, fumes, mites and environmental pollution. Most importantly, one must avoid first-hand or second-hand cigarette smoke.

Pneumonia can be prevented in most cases. For individuals who are at a high risk of getting pneumonia, getting a pneumococcal pneumonia vaccination is very much important. Apart from this, other preventing measures include, getting a flu shot, avoiding cigarette smoke and washing the hands very often so as to reduce the risk of contracting pneumonia.

What Is Bronchopneumonia?

In some cases, bronchitis and pneumonia may occur simultaneously. This condition is called, Bronchopneumonia. This means, both your bronchial tubes as well as the alveoli sacs are infected. This condition may be caused either by a virus or a bacteria.


Now, we know some of the differences between bronchitis and pneumonia and also know a bit about bronchopneumonia. Whether, it is the case of bronchitis, pneumonia or bronchopneumonia; an appropriate diagnosis is highly important for reaching to an effective treatment of the condition. If you experience any of the above symptoms, do not wait for long and reach your doctor for the right diagnosis and treatment.

Also Read:

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:March 1, 2018

Recent Posts

Related Posts