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Here Are the Facts: Can Bronchitis Turn Into Pneumonia?

Can bronchitis turn into pneumonia? In some cases, this happens when the inflammation of the bronchial tubes persists for some time and is not treated properly, leading to a bacterial or viral infection that can cause pneumonia.

When bronchitis becomes severe, the tiny hair-like structures (cilia) that line the bronchi can become damaged, making it difficult for mucus to clear from the lungs. This trapped mucus creates a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses that can develop into pneumonia if left untreated. 

The risk of pneumonia is higher in cases where a person has weakened immunity due to another medical condition or long-term health problem. In such cases, it’s essential to get medical help as soon as possible. 

Bronchitis vs. Pneumonia

Bronchitis and pneumonia are two respiratory illnesses that can cause discomfort in a person’s quality of life. Both ailments affect the lungs, but the two conditions have some essential differences, and we are here to help you navigate them.

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which carry air from the nose and mouth to the lungs. This inflammation can obstruct airflow, making it difficult to breathe. Bronchitis is generally classified into two types: acute bronchitis, which typically lasts for a few weeks at most, and chronic bronchitis, which can persist for months or even years. Bronchitis can be caused by either a virus or bacteria, although the vast majority of acute bronchitis is viral. A major cause of chronic bronchitis is smoking, but people can get it from other causes as well. 

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs usually caused by bacteria or viruses. The disease causes inflammation in the alveoli (tiny sacs in the lungs), which fill with fluid and make it difficult to breathe.

While both conditions require medical attention, they are distinct illnesses with different causes and treatments. 

Bronchitis Symptoms

Common bronchitis symptoms include cough, chest congestion, wheezing, shortness of breath, fatigue, fever, and muscle aches. Generally, symptoms begin with a dry cough that eventually produces mucus as the airways become inflamed. As the infection progresses, coughing fits may become more prolonged and intense, along with increased production mucus.

It is essential for those experiencing these symptoms for an extended period to seek medical attention to determine whether medications might be necessary to reduce inflammation and open up airways to improve breathing, as well as to look for other causes. 

Treating Bronchitis

For mild cases of viral bronchitis, treatment may not be necessary—symptoms often resolve on their own with rest and over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen to reduce fever and inflammation.

Symptoms can be challenging, and our teams are here to help provide you with symptom control. Oral steroids and steroid shots are not recommended due to lack of efficacy and safety concerns.

In addition to medicinal treatments for bronchitis, there are several things you can do at home to help alleviate symptoms and promote healing. Staying hydrated with plenty of fluids will help thin out mucus secretions from your lungs; warm beverages like tea may also provide relief, as well as throat lozenges and smoking cessation. 

Pneumonia Symptoms

Pneumonia is a lung infection that can range from mild to life-threatening. The most common symptoms of pneumonia include a persistent cough, chest pain, chills, fever, and difficulty breathing. Other symptoms may include rapid breathing, sweating, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. More severe symptoms may appear in some cases, such as confusion and drowsiness.

In addition to the physical symptoms of pneumonia, individuals may also experience general malaise or aching in the muscles and joints. Young children with pneumonia may display signs such as wheezing or coughing up mucus. Older adults may also suffer from confusion and mental decline due to the infection. 

If left untreated, pneumonia can lead to severe complications such as organ failure or sepsis. It’s essential to seek medical attention if you think you might have pneumonia since early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent these dangerous consequences.

Treating Pneumonia

Treatment for pneumonia depends on the underlying cause and severity of the infection but may include antibiotics, antivirals, oxygen therapy, or supportive care such as fluids and rest.

Antibiotics are often prescribed for bacterial pneumonia. Doctors may also prescribe antiviral medications if a virus is causing the infection. Oxygen therapy is used when there’s difficulty in maintaining adequate oxygen levels in the body owing to inflamed lungs or other respiratory problems related to pneumonia. 

Medical professionals may also administer fluids intravenously.

In more severe pneumonia cases, treatment services and close monitoring at a hospital may be necessary so that doctors can provide treatment such as oxygen, IV fluids, and IV antibiotics. 

Head to Your Neighborhood American Family Care Clinic


AFC provides accessible and convenient healthcare services. Our hours are flexible, and we are often open in the evenings and over weekends, meaning you can seek the healthcare you need when you need it. Walk-ins are welcome, and appointments are not necessary at most of our clinics. 

Are you experiencing symptoms of bronchitis or pneumonia? Head to your nearest AFC location to receive convenient and affordable on-site services for your healthcare needs. 

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