Difference Between Bronchitis and Pneumonia

The Difference Between Bronchitis and Pneumonia

Acute bronchitis and pneumonia share many of the same symptoms, and it is not always easy for people to tell the difference. Acute or chronic, bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of your bronchial tubes, the passages that carry air to and from your lungs. Pneumonia can be a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection that primarily affects the tissue and space around the air sacs in the lungs. Both bronchitis and pneumonia cause bothersome coughs that can last for weeks but they have some important differences which our doctors would like to share with you:


Bronchitis is inflammation in the airways that lead to the lungs.

Bronchitis is typically viral, and usually occurs after a viral illness such as a cold or flu, which means that antibiotics won’t be helpful in treating it. Antibiotics are ineffective against viruses and using them to treat a viral infection only leads to antibiotic resistance. Occasionally, bronchitis is caused by a bacteria and if your health care provider believes this is the case, she may prescribe antibiotics to treat it at that time. More often, however, treating acute bronchitis simply means finding relief from the symptoms until the illness resolves on its own. Usually fever is not a symptom, but other symptoms may be present including:

  • Persistent Dry Cough
  • Sore Throat
  • Chest Pain that gets worse with cough
  • Chest Congestion
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Chills
  • Body Aches
  • Usually goes away in 1-2 weeks

Acute bronchitis can resolve on its own within about a week but the cough may linger for weeks or even months. If symptoms worsen or lasts over 2 weeks, you should see your doctor as you may have developed another infection.


Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs.

People with pneumonia typically feel much worse than a person with bronchitis would. Although both illnesses can cause a painful cough, pneumonia causes other significant symptoms as well such as:

  • Fever often higher than 101°F
  • Chest Pain
  • Productive Cough
  • Painful and Frequent Cough
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Lasts longer than 2-3 weeks

Treatment for pneumonia will depend on the cause but if you have bacterial pneumonia, you will need to be treated with antibiotics. Other over the counter medications may help deal with the symptoms as well, but you should ask your doctor which options are right for you. Getting adequate rest is essential when you have pneumonia. It is a serious illness that takes time to heal and recover from, and if left untreated could cause death. If you don’t have a regular doctor, you can check out my profile and contact me from here on this “Find A Doctor” website.. You can also find me listed on the US News & World Report HEALTH website.