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Bronchitis vs Pneumonia: What's The Difference?

Medically reviewed by Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD · General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

Written by Kristel Lagorza · Updated Oct 26, 2022

Bronchitis vs Pneumonia: What's The Difference?

The colds and the flu are several ailments that Filipinos often suffer from. But while these can sometimes be treated without any medication, there are some cases of colds and the flu that progress into something much worse. This is where either bronchitis or pneumonia comes in. But what are the differences and similarities of the two? Let us learn more about bronchitis vs pneumonia.

What is bronchitis?

When your bronchial tubes get swollen and infected, you suffer from bronchitis. Most often this is caused by the same virus that gives you the flu and colds, but sometimes, bacteria is to blame. 

There are two kinds of bronchitis: 

  1. Acute bronchitis. This is a mild condition that usually goes away on its own. 
  2. Chronic bronchitis. This is the more severe kind and usually affects people who smoke often. 

What are the symptoms of bronchitis?

When it comes to bronchitis vs pneumonia, their symptoms can be easily confused as they are very similar. 

Among the symptoms of bronchitis are 

  • Having trouble breathing
  • Chest congestion where your chest feels tight or clogged
  • Coughing up a lot of clear and whitish, yellowish, or greenish mucus
  • Wheezing when you breathe.

You may also experience other flu-like symptoms such as chills, body aches, fatigue, runny and stuffy nose, sore throat, and even low fever. With bronchitis, even after most of the symptoms have gone, your cough may remain and may last up to a few weeks.  

Bronchitis vs pneumonia: When do you need to see a doctor for bronchitis?

You may need professional help when you feel any of the following symptoms: when you cough mucus that is thick and dark; your cough keeps you awake at night, and this lasts for more than three weeks; a foul-tasting odor in your mouth; and a fever that can go as high as 40 degrees Celsius. You may also want to call your doctor if you have shortness of breath. Whether it is bronchitis vs pneumonia, your physician can help determine the correct condition. 

What are the treatments for bronchitis?

When it comes to treatment, in most cases, acute bronchitis just goes away on its own after a couple of weeks. Your doctor may give you some medications if it is bacterial. Your doctor may also suggest an inhaler if you have a wheezing cough, allergies, or asthma. It is also better not to take any cough medications unless your cough keeps waking you up at night. Children who suffer from bronchitis should be diagnosed by a doctor. 

To ease the symptoms, here are some home remedies. 

  • Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water a day. Drinking water can soften the mucus in the lungs and makes it easier to cough up phlegm. 
  • Get adequate sleep.
  • Take some over-the-counter medications. Always consult your doctor first.
  • To loosen the mucus, try steaming or using a humidifier. You can do a hot shower, too. 
  • Consume a balanced diet. Make sure that you fill your plate with the right mix of protein, carbohydrates, good fats, and of course, fruits and vegetables. 

What is pneumonia? 

In the discussion of bronchitis vs pneumonia, pneumonia is another type of infection in your lungs. But instead of bronchial tubes, this originates from the air sacs in your lungs called alveoli. This ailment can be mild. But sometimes can develop into a more severe condition, especially for those with weakened immune systems, young children, and older adults past the age of 65 years old. 

What are the symptoms of pneumonia?

Based on your age, your overall health, and what causes it, the symptoms of pneumonia vary. But among its most common symptoms include: 

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Chest pains
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Confusion, which happens to older adults
  • Headaches
  • A heavy feeling
  • Damp skin
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting

The causes of pneumonia vary from :

  • Bacteria
  • Certain chemicals
  • Fungi
  • Mycoplasmas, similar to bacteria, can develop into pneumonia that gives you milder symptoms. This is oftentimes known as walking pneumonia
  • Viruses that cause the same cold and flu. 

In understanding bronchitis vs pneumonia, with pneumonia, the air sacs in your lungs may fill with pus as response of your body to fight off the infection. It is similar to the swelling in your bronchial tubes when you have bronchitis. 

Bronchitis vs pneumonia: When do you need to call your doctor for pneumonia?

Call your doctor if you have a cough that does not go away, or a cough that has been progressing. Other symptoms that might require a visit to the doctor include chest pains, fever that is over 40 degrees Celsius, chills and shortness of breath, breathing trouble, or difficulty in swallowing, even liquids. 

What are the treatments for pneumonia?

If your pneumonia is caused by bacteria, you may be prescribed antibiotics. If it is a virus infection, you may get an antiviral drug. If your pneumonia is serious, you should visit your doctor.

Here are some home remedies you can do when you have pneumonia.

  • Drink at least eight glasses of water a day. Drinking water can help unclog the mucus in your lungs.
  • Have enough sleep or rest.
  • Take medications for pain and fever.
  • Avoid cough medicines.
  • Have a balanced diet. Food can help the recovery go faster. 


There is a fine line that differentiates bronchitis vs pneumonia. The main difference is found in what causes them and the parts of the lung that they affect. There are home remedies that can cure both, but before you self-medicate, it is always advised to have yourself properly diagnosed. This is to avoid the worsening of your condition and to prevent the development of more complications. In determining whether it is bronchitis vs pneumonia, always consult a doctor. 

Learn more about Bronchitis here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD

General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

Written by Kristel Lagorza · Updated Oct 26, 2022

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