Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between bronchitis and pneumonia?

Bronchitis is a swelling of the bronchi, the airways that lead to your lungs. The most common symptoms are coughing and mucus, but you may also have wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain, and a slight fever. Bronchitis is usually caused by cold or flu viruses, but occasionally a bacterial infection may be the culprit. Acute (short-term) bronchitis usually goes away on its own, without medicine.

Pneumonia is when the small air sacs within your lungs, called alveoli, fill up with fluid or pus due to an infection. The infection can occur in one or both lungs and can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or even fungi. Symptoms of pneumonia include coughing (with or without mucus), chills, fever, and difficulty breathing. Pneumonia may be treated with antibiotics or antiviral or antifungal medications, depending on the cause.

If you have symptoms common to both of these conditions, your doctor may order a chest X-ray to diagnose — or rule out — pneumonia.

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