How to Identify Bronchitis vs Common Cold vs Pneumonia?

Almost everyone gets a cold in their lifetime, and many people will get cold at least once every year.

And there are times when a cold may become something worse, so the question of the day is how do you know you have bronchitis instead of a lingering cold.

Question: How Do You Know You Have Bronchitis? What are the Key Symptoms?

Often, a cold is the first step in developing bronchitis so some cold symptoms will also be present in bronchitis. Identifying the current cough as something more than just a part of a cold — is the complex part of detecting if you have bronchitis.

  • With colds, your cough may be rather dry with no expulsion of phlegm or mucus. However, with bronchitis, the coughs are moist, producing yellow or green sputum.
  • Another symptom for bronchitis is wheezing and chest pain — ie behind the sternum (breast bone). When your bronchial tubes are inflamed, they are producing mucus which creates a rattling, wheezing noise when you breathe. Of course, the pain in the chest occurs from repeated coughing as well as from the bronchial tube inflammation.
  • Fatigue and fever are two additional signs that can show how you know you do have bronchitis. Chronic coughing can take a toll on your body causing tiredness while fever is common when you body is fighting an infection. Of course, these two symptoms are also prevalent in pneumonia as well.

Question: How do you know you if you have bronchitis instead of pneumonia?

For that you can get chest x-ray or “Bronchoscopy” at the hospital or doctor’s office. The x-rays will reveal clear lungs with bronchitis, but infection is will be visible in the lungs of a pneumonia patient.

Question: What are the Treatment Options?

Once you know that you do have bronchitis, specific treatment can be started.

  • If the cause is a bacteria, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. A blood test and sample of the phlegm/sputum can show how you know you do have bronchitis caused by bacteria.
  • If the cause is a virus (and this seems to be more common) you can’t solve it with antibiotics (as you may know already), and you just have to wait and let the illness run its course. However, you could still ease your symptoms like the inhalation of steam, consuming plenty of fluids and taking a pain reliever for those body aches.

Question: How can I prevent it from coming in future?

That’s very difficult give that we live in a society and we have to constantly interact with people. Even if your body is able to Once you have become better, think about future. The best defense is preventative maintenance like hand washing and avoiding disease prone areas. Regular exercise can keep your respiratory system in good shape for

5 Responses to How to Identify Bronchitis vs Common Cold vs Pneumonia?

  1. Morning all,
    i have a 2year old Daoghter. I realy expirienceng proble with her she is allways in hospital becouse of bronclite please advise.

    • Dear Martin, Infant Bronchitis is not uncommon becasue the child has under-developed immune system. My younger brother used to have breathing / asthma problems during his first 10 years but those problems vanished with change of place, city, country. While not everybody can change locations, it is important to stay away from potential allergy causing materials. I feel your daughter is allergic to something in your home environment and bronchitis is the outcome. Take her to a different place for 1-2 weeks and see if she still has the same symptoms. Its worth trying.

  2. give her a good diet, lots of vit c , keep her clean, regularly wash her hands

  3. can you get Jaundice also?

  4. is bacterial or viral bronchitis worse? how can a doc tell the difference between two if no lab work was taken or xrays?

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