Respiratory conditions can be tricky to self-diagnose, because they often share similar symptoms, such as a cough. After all, a cough is how your body tries to prevent infection and clear irritants from your airways. But when you have a cough that doesn’t go away, even when a sore throat or fever has, it could be a sign of something more serious, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
People often confuse bronchitis with pneumonia. However, these conditions have significant differences and involve different parts of the lungs. On top of that, pneumonia is typically more serious and potentially life-threatening.
Our team at Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine in Algonquin, Illinois, specializes in diagnosing, preventing, and treating lung disorders.
In this blog, we explain some of the differences between bronchitis and pneumonia and discuss when you might need to schedule an appointment.
Bronchitis develops when the tubes in your lungs that carry air become inflamed. When this occurs, the airways, or bronchioles, swell and start filling with a sticky mucus. That’s when the hacking begins, and you often bring up a telltale yellow-green mucus in the process. This color is a big indicator of this type of infection.
Other signs of bronchitis include:
Bronchitis can be either acute or chronic. With acute bronchitis, the cough often starts with a viral infection, such as a cold, and symptoms last anywhere from 10-21 days. It’s also contagious.
Chronic bronchitis typically lasts at least three months and becomes a recurring problem. Any lung irritant can trigger these symptoms, from respiratory infections to exposure to tobacco smoke, and it’s less likely to be contagious.
Unlike bronchitis, pneumonia inflames the tiny air sacs in part of your lung — not the airways. When these sacs, or alveoli, become inflamed, it keeps carbon dioxide and oxygen from moving between your lungs to your bloodstream.
In addition to a cough with mucus, other signs of pneumonia include:
Several types of infection can cause pneumonia, spreading through respiratory droplets in the air or on contaminated surfaces. It’s also possible to have mild cases of the condition. However, pneumonia can cause serious complications, ranging from fluid buildup in the lungs and bacteria entering the bloodstream to lung abscesses filled with pus.
At the end of the day, always contact a medical expert if you have bronchitis or pneumonia symptoms that don’t improve within a week or seem to continue worsening. However, people in at-risk groups should seek prompt medical attention, even if symptoms seem mild.
At-risk health groups include:
After reaching a diagnosis, we can create a personalized treatment strategy to manage your symptoms and reduce your chances of complications.
Do you have a nasty cough? At Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine, we have on-site diagnostic tests that can get to the bottom of your symptoms. To get the help you need, call 815-584-0976 or book an appointment online today.