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Pneumonia vs Tuberculosis: How to Tell Them Apart

Medically reviewed by Mae Charisse Antalan, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Dec 19, 2022

    Pneumonia vs Tuberculosis: How to Tell Them Apart

    Pneumonia vs tuberculosis is a tricky discussion. According to reports, one can be misdiagnosed as the other since the two conditions may present similar symptoms. Case in point, both conditions may lead to shortness of breath, fatigue, and chest pain while breathing or coughing.

    If you’re experiencing respiratory discomforts and suspect pneumonia or tuberculosis, here are some tips to tell them apart using the signs and symptoms.

    pneumonia vs tuberculosis


    Pneumonia vs tuberculosis coughing may be indistinguishable, but you can take into consideration the duration. Many reports also describe TB cough as a “bad cough” that lasts for two weeks or longer. Hemoptysis, or coughing up blood, is also a notable symptom of TB.

    Fever, sweating, and chills

    Since tuberculosis and pneumonia are infections, it’s not surprising for both to present with high body temperature, along with sweating and chills.

    In pneumonia, people aged 65 and older or those with a weak immune system may have lower-than-normal body temperature.

    Another notable thing is that sweating in tuberculosis usually happens at night.

    Digestive Symptoms and Weight Loss

    Discussing the symptoms of pneumonia vs tuberculosis will not be complete without talking about the digestive symptoms.

    Symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and even diarrhea may happen in pneumonia. Loss of appetite and weight loss, on the other hand, are common in tuberculosis.

    Important note:

    Please note that tuberculosis and pneumonia symptoms vary from person to person.

    Some people only have mild pneumonia symptoms, while those with weakened immunity might develop a severe infection.

    Interestingly, people with latent TB do not exhibit symptoms until the infection turns active.

    The Next Steps

    Whether what you have is tuberculosis vs pneumonia doesn’t change the fact that you need to consult a doctor. This is because only they can correctly diagnose your condition and prescribe you the appropriate medicines. Remember: pneumonia and TB require different pharmacological treatment.

    In the doctor’s office, expect to answer questions regarding your health history, like how long have you been coughing? and did you come in close contact with someone who has pneumonia or TB?

    The doctor will also most likely order tests like x-ray, blood tests, and sputum exams to confirm what your condition is.

    After the consultation with the physician, the following tips will be helpful:

    Stop the spread of infection

    Most cases of pneumonia and active TB infections are contagious, so it’s a good idea to practice measures that stop the spread of infection.

    If possible, stay at home until you recover or until the doctor informs you that you’re no longer contagious; this is especially true for tuberculosis since you’re likely contagious until you complete the first two weeks of your treatment. When around people, be sure to wear a mask.

    Of course, don’t forget basic infection control practices like frequent handwashing, disinfection, and no sharing of utensils.

    Finally, consider contacting the people you’ve come in close contact with before your diagnosis. This way, they can watch out for respiratory symptoms and intervene when needed.

    Take your medicines

    Another important part of treating both pneumonia and tuberculosis is to take the prescribed medications as ordered.

    For instance, if they give you antibiotics for two weeks, be sure to take them for two weeks. Don’t stop even if you feel better or no longer have symptoms.

    Tuberculosis treatment typically involves several drugs, so to avoid confusion, set reminders or jot down notes. If you are enrolled in TB treatment centers, you need to take the medicine under the direct supervision of a healthcare worker.

    Monitor your symptoms

    And finally, monitor your symptoms. If your symptoms don’t get better or they worsen even after a week or two of medication and rest, don’t hesitate to go back to the hospital or clinic.

    Key Takeaways

    It’s easy to mistake pneumonia for TB and vice versa, that’s why you need to consult your doctor as soon as you develop respiratory symptoms like fever, cough, and shortness of breath. It is only after confirming your condition that the physician can recommend an appropriate treatment.

    Learn more about Pneumonia here


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

    Medically reviewed by

    Mae Charisse Antalan, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Dec 19, 2022

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