There is a saying that goes, “Health is wealth.” Maintaining a healthy lifestyle has become more important to protect our body and its vital organs from diseases in today’s busy times.
Easy Internet access helps patients self-assess their symptoms and consult the right doctor immediately, especially if the symptoms are related to vital organs. One such organ in the body is the pair of lungs. Lungs are a part of the respiratory system through which the body is exposed to the outer environment. Therefore, the system can be vulnerable to infections.
Two of the well-known lung conditions are bronchitis and pneumonia. While both the conditions originate in the respiratory tract and can have similar symptoms, their prognosis is very different.
Basic Differences Between Pneumonia and Bronchitis
Both bronchitis and pneumonia originate in the respiratory system with similar symptoms. However, bronchitis results from infection and inflammation of the bronchi, the tubes that carry oxygen to the lungs. In contrast, pneumonia is the infection of the lungs, where the air sacs inside the lungs get infected.
The other difference is that bronchitis can be caused by bacteria and viruses, whereas pneumonia is caused mostly by bacteria.
What Are the Types of Bronchitis and Pneumonia?
As a patient, understanding the different types of these two diseases will help you to identify your symptoms and take early action.
Bronchitis is of two types:
● Acute Bronchitis. This is the most common form of bronchitis. It lasts for a short term of 14 to 15 days, while the symptoms can extend up to three weeks. Acute bronchitis can be treated with home remedies, but antibiotics, unfortunately, do not help.
● Chronic Bronchitis. It is the more severe form of bronchitis. The word ‘Chronic’ means a condition that persists for a longer time. Patients with chronic bronchitis are marred with a constant cough and mucus production.
Pneumonia is grouped into several types (by their cause) as follows:
● Bacterial Pneumonia. Mostly caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae.
● Viral Pneumonia. Caused by different viruses that show flu-like symptoms. Viral pneumonia can also lead to bacterial pneumonia.
● Others. Some types of pneumonia can also be caused by fungi.
What Symptoms Should You Look Out for?
Both pneumonia and bronchitis have cold and flu-like symptoms along with some other common symptoms. Let us look at the detailed symptoms that you should be mindful of.
Here are the symptoms of bacterial pneumonia:
● Changes in the color of lip and fingernails
● Loss of appetite
● Cough that produces mucus of yellow or green color
● Blood in mucus
● Heavy breathing or troubled breathing
● Excessive sweating
Here are the symptoms of bronchitis to look out for:
When Should You Visit a Doctor?
Not all of the above symptoms will point towards bronchitis or pneumonia since many are common with other conditions. The key is not to panic and know when the right time is to visit a doctor.
The symptoms resolve in 1 to 2 weeks with home treatment. But if they do not improve, if you feel bronchitis is reappearing despite treatment, or if your fever is above 100F and does not subside, this could be a sign of chronic, more severe bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis will need a stronger treatment course than just home remedies, and meeting a doctor will be imperative.
As mentioned earlier, many of the symptoms of pneumonia are common with flu and cold. However, if you experience prolonged coughing, pus oozing while coughing, very high fever with chills, and trouble breathing, contact a doctor immediately.
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What Are the Probable Causes of Bronchitis and Pneumonia?
Causes of Bronchitis.
More than 90% of cases with acute bronchitis are mostly caused by a viral infection. In viral and bacterial infections, foreign bodies enter the lungs’ air passage and act as irritants, thus causing the infection. Chronic bronchitis is particularly caused by lung irritants such as cigarette smoke, pollution, and dust.
Causes of Pneumonia.
Pneumonia can be caused by bacterial, viral, or fungal infections as well as by inhaling irritants. The air sacs (alveoli) inside the lungs are infected, thus causing pneumonia. The viral infection is caused by the influenza virus.
What Are the Risk Factors in the Development of Pneumonia and Bronchitis?
Let us see the triggers that cause infections, which can be termed as the risk factors.
Risk Factors for Bronchitis.
1) The primary risk factor is smoking. Current and past smokers are both at very high risk of developing chronic bronchitis.
2) Prolonged exposure to irritants, including passive smoking, constant air pollution, dust, and fumes, is a major risk factor.
3) People who are aged 40 and above are at higher risk of developing chronic bronchitis.
4) If you have a family history of bronchitis or COPD in any generation, then you are at risk of developing chronic bronchitis.
Risk Factors for Pneumonia.
1) Vulnerable Population. Children 2 years and younger and adults 65+ are at high risk of developing pneumonia.
2) Use of Ventilator. If you have been hospitalized and have used a ventilator, you are at risk.
3) Comorbidities. This means if you have existing conditions like asthma or COPD, you are at risk.
4) Low Immunity. We have seen that low immunity has been a constant cause of various diseases, the latest being Covid 19. It is also a risk factor for pneumonia.
What Are the Treatment Options for Pneumonia and Bronchitis?
Both pneumonia and bronchitis are treatable; here are their treatment options:
Treatment for Pneumonia.
The treatment option for pneumonia will depend on what caused it. Bacterial pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics. Viral pneumonia usually clears on its own. Mild cases of pneumonia can be treated at home with prescribed medicines.
If you have a fever, the doctor will prescribe medicines to manage it, and if you are coughing, you can try cough suppressants.
Treatment for Bronchitis.
Doctors will prescribe steroids that can be inhaled into the lungs and recommend breathing treatment for chronic bronchitis. If required, the doctor may also prescribe supplemental oxygen in case you have breathing issues.
What Are the Complications Caused By Pneumonia and Bronchitis?
Complications are caused if the treatment gets delayed or if the wrong treatment is given.
Here are the complications of pneumonia:
● Lung failure
● Pus formation in the lungs
● Infection entering the blood that may lead to organ failure.
The complications of bronchitis are: If untreated, it can lead to pneumonia and COPD.
How to Prevent Bronchitis and Pneumonia:
For both pneumonia and bronchitis, smoking is the primary risk factor; therefore, quitting smoking is recommended. Other measures are to cover the mouth while outside to avoid exposure to irritants, pollutants, fumes, and dust.
Both pneumonia and bronchitis are treatable. If you have any symptoms that may point to bronchitis or pneumonia, do not panic. If they are not severe, go for home remedies first. If you feel the symptoms are not getting relieved, visit a good doctor, and consider all treatment options.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
1) Are Pneumonia and Bronchitis Contagious?
Since either bacteria or viruses cause both, they can be spread through the air via sneezing and coughing or sharing utensils. Patients must be mindful to cover their mouth always.
2) Can Bronchitis and Pneumonia Cause Lung Cancer?
There is no data suggesting that the presence or history of pneumonia and bronchitis will cause lung cancer. However, since the risk factors are the same, such as smoking cigarettes, lung cancer patients are more susceptible to pneumonia and bronchitis.
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