Acute Bronchitis vs. Pneumonia

Acute Bronchitis vs. Pneumonia

Acute bronchitis and pneumonia share many of the same symptoms but are different in cause and treatment. If acute bronchitis becomes active, there is a risk of getting pneumonia. However, when pneumonia is active there is little chance that bronchitis will become active.

Both acute bronchitis and pneumonia are caused by inflammation in the lungs, but bronchitis is more often viral and pneumonia is more often bacterial. Acute bronchitis causes an inflammation of the air passages while pneumonia causes fluid in the lungs due to an infection. Acute bronchitis occurs mostly after middle age and cannot really be prevented by those at risk. Pneumonia, on the other hand, can be prevented by taking appropriate measures.

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the mucous membranes of the bronchi and can be divided into two categories: acute and chronic. Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lungs affecting the microscopic air sacs which swell up and cause coughing.

Those most at risk differ as well. Those at risk to get acute bronchitis is anyone with prior upper respiratory infection, smokers, older people, and those with reflux disease. Those at risk to get pneumonia are those with diabetes, heart disorders, pulmonary disorders, COPD, and lung infections.

There are variations in symptoms in both conditions. Both acute bronchitis and pneumonia may begin with a cough. While acute bronchitis is a dry cough that does not produce mucus until the very late stage, pneumonia will bring up noticeable amounts of mucus from the lungs. Bronchitis may produce mucus that is clear or yellow with possible blood. Pneumonia will produce mucus that is rusty or green and mixed with blood.

If acute bronchitis is present, there may be a mild fever. On the other hand, if pneumonia is present the fever is often higher than 101°F. There are also noticeable symptoms with pneumonia that do not appear with acute bronchitis. For example, the heart rate elevates over 100 beats a minute, breathing may increase to more than 24 breaths a minute, shaking and chattering of teeth and X-rays do not appear normal and reveal fluid in the lungs. The symptoms may last longer than 2-3 weeks with pneumonia. Acute bronchitis normally will go away within 2-3 weeks.

The treatments differ as well. Acute bronchitis may involve a doctor visit needed for elderly or small children, but not always needed. Pneumonia often needs hospitalization and frequent doctor visits. Antibiotics are not needed with acute bronchitis unless a bacterium is the cause, which would then require steroids. Pneumonia requires antibiotics and in most cases supplemental oxygen is needed.

In conclusion, acute bronchitis and pneumonia may have some similarities, but they are very different in symptoms and in treatment. Most common is that bronchitis is often viral while pneumonia is bacterial. Bronchitis affects the air passages while pneumonia affects the lungs. Bronchitis will seldom need doctor visits, while pneumonia frequently needs hospitalization. Because they share some of the same symptoms, it is important to know the differences in order to find the proper treatment.

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