Which Is More Serious, Bronchitis or Pneumonia?

After getting over a cold, you feel like you are finally able to go on. However, you should be aware that your weakened immune system leaves your lungs open to something even more dangerous. 

Lower airway infections like bronchitis and pneumonia can strike after an upper airway infection like a cold has weakened your immune system. 

Because the signs and causes of pneumonia and bronchitis are so similar, people often get them mixed up. Even though they both affect the breathing system, it is important to know how these two disorders are different and how serious they are to treat either one of them properly. 

In this blog, we’ll compare and contrast the symptoms, causes, and possible seriousness of bronchitis and pneumonia to see which one is worse. 

An Overview of Both Conditions 


Bronchitis affects the bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from the lungs. There are several causes of breathing tube swelling. Chronic bronchitis can be short-term or long-term. Most cases of acute bronchitis are caused by viruses like the flu or cold. Wheezing, sore throat, and coughing are common symptoms of the few-week disease. There may be lots of mucus. However, chronic bronchitis is a symptom of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and is typically brought on by prolonged exposure to irritants such as cigarette smoke. Long-lasting bronchitis can result from asthma. 

Symptoms of Bronchitis 


Bronchitis has many signs, and one of them is a cough that is both persistent and often productive, which means that it makes mucus. A dry cough may start out and then turn into one that makes thick, colored mucus. 

Problems with Breathing 

Bronchitis has several signs, and shortness of breath is one of them, especially when doing a lot of exercise. 

Chest Pain 

People with bronchitis may feel chest pain or like their chest is being squeezed while they have the illness. 


Bronchitis often makes people feel tired, and this is especially true during the acute phase when symptoms like feeling drained and fatigued are most noticeable. 

Sore Throat 

If you have viral bronchitis, you may also have a sore throat along with other symptoms. When bronchitis is caused by a virus, you may have a sore throat. 


When someone is wheezing, they make a high-pitched whistling sound while they are breathing. This symptom may manifest if the airways get narrowed. 

Treatment for Bronchitis 

  • To heal, you need to get enough rest and drink enough water. 
  • Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are over-the-counter medicines that help with fever, pain, and soreness. 
  • Cough suppressants you can buy over the counter can help, but you have to use them the right way. 
  • Thinners (expectorants) make it easier to cough by loosening and getting rid of mucus in the lungs. 
  • If wheezing or tightness in the airways is serious, bronchodilator inhalers may be used. 
  • Avoid irritants, such as smoking and pollution that worsen bronchitis. 

If a bacterial infection is thought to be present or has been confirmed, antibiotics may be given. 


An illness called pneumonia, which doesn’t impact the airways, is a different form of infection. According to Dr. Tolle, it instead inflames the tiny sacs (alveoli) in certain parts of your lungs. The swelling and mucus that come from it make it harder for oxygen and carbon dioxide to circulate from the lungs to the bloodstream. 

Pneumoconiosis is the medical term for this sort of problem. There is a vast range of infectious agents that can result in pneumonia, from bacteria and viruses to fungi. High temperatures, chest pain, trouble breathing, coughing up mucus or blood, and extreme exhaustion are common signs of pneumonia. A person’s age, their current health, and the infectious agent responsible for their pneumonia all play a role in determining how serious their case will be. 

Symptoms of Pneumonia 

High Fever 

People with pneumonia often have a high fever, which can be accompanied by chills and a lot of sweating. 


Like bronchitis, pneumonia can cause a cough, but a cough from pneumonia may be worse and make mucus that looks yellow, green, or even bloody. 

Breathing Problems 

People with pneumonia often have trouble breathing, especially when they are active. These problems can get worse as the infection gets worse. 

Pain in the Chest 

One of the most common symptoms is chest pain, which can be mild or serious. It shows up most when you take big breaths or cough. 

Rapid Heartbeat 

Fast heart rate in cases of asthma that are very bad, a fast heart rate may be seen. This could also happen in less serious cases. 


People who have pneumonia often feel very tired and weak. 

Blue Tint (Cyanosis) 

Cyanosis is a situation in which the blood doesn’t have enough oxygen, which can make the lips and nails seem blue in severe cases. 


People with pneumonia often feel confused, and older people are especially likely to feel this way. People who are older and have pneumonia may be less aware of what is going on around them. 

Treatment for Pneumonia 

Though “walking pneumonia” can be minor, it can require immediate medical attention. According to Dr. Tolle, groups at risk include: 

  • Young children less than two years old 
  • 65+ adults. 
  • Those who are expecting a baby 
  • People with lung or heart diseases. The list includes asthma, emphysema, diabetes, and heart disease. 
  • Neurological diseases like dementia, Parkinson’s, and stroke make swallowing difficult. 

Pneumonia treatment depends on the cause. Antibiotics treat bacterial pneumonia. However, antivirals, over-the-counter painkillers, and breathing therapy can treat viral pneumonia. 

The elderly and young can be protected from several forms of bacterial pneumonia by vaccination. Quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke can reduce the risk of pneumonia. 


When Should You See a Doctor? 

If you frequently develop bronchitis or if you have a persistent cough that hasn’t improved after two weeks, you should consult your doctor. 

See a doctor if you have more serious symptoms like a high fever, trouble breathing, or a cough that brings up pus or blood, even if you think you know what’s wrong. A doctor might give you an X-ray of your chest to help figure out if you have bronchitis or pneumonia. 

When in doubt, consult a medical professional, especially if your symptoms persist or worsen. 

Final Thoughts 

Bronchitis and pneumonia are two types of respiratory illnesses that need to be treated differently. Both illnesses have similar signs, but their severity and health risks are different. When you have acute or chronic bronchitis, your chest hurts and there is congestion. Chronic asthma, like COPD, can make it hard to get through the day. Pneumonia, on the other hand, is more dangerous. When the air sacs in the lungs get inflamed, it causes fever, a strong cough, and shortness of breath. Pneumonia is more serious since it can rapidly worsen and cause complications, including pleural effusion and infection. However, bronchitis still warrants attention, especially in patients with chronic respiratory conditions. Timely medical evaluation, treatment, and prevention are important for a healthy recovery and good respiratory health. 

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