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Bronchitis or Pneumonia: How to Tell the Difference

Mar 06, 2023
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Pair a cough with mucus in your chest, and you’re left wondering what’s going on. Is it bronchitis or pneumonia? Learn some key differentiating factors here.

Difficulty breathing should always give you pause. If you can’t get a good breath, something is preventing your lungs from working the way they should. Since you need oxygen to breathe, it’s important to figure out what that something is. 

It could be a lung infection, which can take the form of bronchitis or pneumonia. Getting the treatment, you need to heal your lungs means figuring out which is affecting you. 

Board-certified family nurse practitioner and house call specialist Bincy Varughese, APRN, FNP-C, can help. As a bronchitis specialist, she and our Refresh Wellness team help people around the Garland, Texas, area get the lung care they need. 

With diagnostic tools like a physical exam and sputum sample testing, we can find out what’s impacting your lungs. To help you determine if it’s time to give us a call, let’s look at the symptoms of these two potentially serious conditions.

Common and differentiating symptoms

Both pneumonia and bronchitis develop because of an infection in your lungs. In both cases, that infection could be viral or bacterial. Pneumonia can also be caused by fungal infections, while bronchitis can develop after exposure to environmental irritants.

Ultimately, though, because the conditions are fairly similar, so are the symptoms, including:

  • A productive cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever and chills
  • A sore throat

You do have some symptoms that can help you differentiate these two conditions, though. Pneumonia can cause chest pain, while bronchitis brings a feeling of tightness in your chest. 

Bronchitis can cause sounds when you breathe, like squeaking or wheezing. Pneumonia generally feels more like a full-body infection, causing symptoms like fatigue and muscle aches.

Knowing those specific differentiating symptoms can help you get a better idea of which lung infection you have. Don’t stop there, though. If your symptoms persist — and especially if you have difficulty breathing or a fever — give us a call.

Diagnosing and treating bronchitis and pneumonia

At Refresh Wellness, Bincy has nearly a decade of expertise in treating bronchitis. That means she’s seasoned in distinguishing it from pneumonia. With a house call or a visit to our office, she can perform the right tests and order additional diagnostics as needed to find out what’s affecting your lungs. 

Using a sputum sample, for example, she tests your saliva for the presence of bacteria and viruses. She may also order a chest X-ray to determine if you have fluid in your lungs. 

Once we find out what’s impacting your lungs, we go to work developing a treatment plan for you. While both bronchitis and pneumonia can be mild, they can escalate, especially when left untreated. We help you take the right steps to fight your infection, from antibiotics to an inhaler. 

If you’re having trouble breathing, knowing why makes a big difference. To figure out if it’s bronchitis, pneumonia, or something else, call our office or book your appointment online today.