A nagging cough and shortness of breath? You may think you just have a spring cold or your allergies have taken hold, but there may be something more sinister plaguing your airways and it needs to be taken seriously.
Millions of Americans suffer chronic lung issues and not just because they are smokers. These common lung ailments include bronchitis and pneumonia. Each one can cause lengthy and chronic illness and you need to know the signs, symptoms, and differences. It can be a matter of life and breathe.
Bronchitis is typically a respiratory disease in which the mucus membrane in the lungs’ bronchial passages becomes inflamed. The irritated membrane swells and grows thicker. The narrowing of the passageway causes coughing spells and shortness of breathe. Acute bronchitis can last from one to three weeks and chronic bronchitis can last for three months or even two years. Acute bronchitis is very common and can be caused by a viral illness such as the common cold or flu. It can also be caused by bacteria as well.
According to the American Lung Association, pneumonia is a common lung infection. The infection is usually caused by a virus, fungi, or bacteria. Though a common lung infection, pneumonia can cause you to be very sick and can even be life-threatening. Pneumonia occurs after breathing in germs or bacteria into your lungs. Symptoms include fever, hacking cough, fast heart beat, shortness of breath, chest pain, feeling tired and weak, chills, and even gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Confusion and delirium can also occur, especially in older patients or those with severe symptoms.
Bronchitis is not typically accompanied by a fever though sometimes a low grade fever ( less than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) can occur. Higher fever, such as 101 degrees or higher are attributed to pneumonia, All coughs with accompanying fever should be reported to your physician.
The cough accompanied by bronchitis typically is a dry cough at first, it does not produce mucus or phlegm. After a few days the cough may produce a mucus that is clear, yellow, or even green. The cough associated with pneumonia often produces mucus immediately. It may sound crazy and is not glamorous, but know your mucus since it can be key to a proper diagnosis.
Acute bronchitis and pneumonia share many of the same symptoms, so if you are experiencing a cough it is important to be aware of all your symptoms including heart rate, fever, and breathing. Acute bronchitis usually goes away in a couple of weeks, but pneumonia requires further treatment and can be life threatening, especially in those immune suppressed or older patients.
A full chart of the differences between bronchitis and pneumonia is available. Always consult your physician with the details of your cough and your health history. Knowing the differences in your cough can make all the difference in obtaining a correct diagnosis and the resources you need for a speedy recovery.