Pneumonia: how to distinguish it from bronchitis

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Two illnesses with similar symptoms can have very different consequences. Pneumonia, which can be mistaken for bronchitis, can be fatal for frail people. Hence the importance of early diagnosis and proper treatment, which accelerate healing and limit the risk of complications.

Bronchitis and pneumonia are two infections that can affect the airways. They have similar symptoms that are confusing. But there are differences. Firstly, pneumonia affects the lungs, while bronchitis affects the bronchi, a kind of tunnel for air to enter and leave the lungs.

Most cases of bronchitis are caused by viruses, often the same viruses that cause colds and flu. In fact, a cold or flu often precedes bronchitis. However, pneumonia is mainly caused by bacteria (as well as viruses and fungi, but in more isolated cases). Among the main bacteria involved: Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus), Haemophilus influenzae.

What symptoms do they have?

The most prominent symptom of bronchitis is a cough, sometimes accompanied by sputum, mild fever, body aches, chest pain, headache, fatigue, and shortness of breath.

In the event of pneumonia, fatty cough is also accompanied by sputum (sometimes blood) and chest pain, but also high fever, chills, respiratory discomfort, poor appetite, and a state of distress. Pneumonia is more dangerous than bronchitis and can even be fatal.

How to treat these infections?

Since bronchitis is almost always viral, antibiotic treatments are not effective. You can ease some symptoms with over-the-counter medications. A few teaspoons of honey in tea or warm water can also relieve a cough.

Bacterial pneumonia is treated with antibiotics. Previous diagnosis by a health professional increases the chances of quick recovery and the risk of complications.

Rest and fluid consumption are highly recommended in both cases. To limit the risk of transmission, remember to wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face. Vaccines help protect the most exposed people.

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