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Differences Between Acute Bronchitis and Pneumonia

Acute bronchitis and pneumonia share many of the same symptoms, and some people with acute bronchitis are at risk for getting pneumonia. Although acute bronchitis usually goes away within a few weeks, pneumonia can be a serious condition, especially in older adults.

The following table outlines some differences between acute bronchitis and pneumonia. There are variations in symptoms of both conditions, so if you think you might have pneumonia, always check with your doctor.

Recommended Related to Lung Disease/Respiratory Problems

Understanding Pneumonia -- Diagnosis and Treatment

Pneumonia ranges from a mild condition treatable at home to a potentially fatal infection requiring hospitalization. If you have symptoms of pneumonia, you should see your health care provider to get appropriate treatment. Your provider may take the following steps to diagnose pneumonia: Listen to your chest for crackling noises and tap your chest to check for dull thuds indicating fluid-filled lungs. Request X-rays to confirm that you have pneumonia. If you have pneumonia, X-rays will show...

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Symptoms of acute bronchitis and pneumonia
Symptom Acute bronchitis Pneumonia

Cough

  • Dry cough at first (does not produce mucus)
  • After a few days, cough may bring up mucus from the lungs. The mucus may be clear, yellow, or green, and may be tinged with blood.
  • Cough often brings up mucus from the lungs.
  • Mucus may be rusty or green or tinged with blood.

Fever

  • Fever is not present or is mild.
  • Fever is often higher than 101°F (38.5°C).

Other

  • X-rays appear normal.
  • Usually goes away in 2 to 3 weeks
  • Heart rate faster than 100 beats a minute
  • Breathing faster than 24 breaths a minute
  • Shaking, "teeth-chattering" chills
  • X-rays do not appear normal.
  • May last longer than 2 to 3 weeks
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Robert L. Cowie, MB, FCP(SA), MD, MSc, MFOM - Pulmonology
Last Revised July 10, 2012

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 10, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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