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Bronchitis vs. Pneumonia: How to Tell the Difference

Bronchitis vs. Pneumonia: How to Tell the Difference

Illnesses like the common cold can sometimes result in lasting complications for your lungs. If you have a cough that just won’t go away, you could be dealing with a lung condition like pneumonia or bronchitis.

At Monrovia Internal Medicine & Primary Care (MIMPC), we offer care for lingering coughs and lung conditions. Under the leadership of Dr. Ulin Sargeant, our team of primary care providers can help you understand what’s going on with your lungs, and how to improve your condition with treatments and therapies.

We offer treatment from our location in Duarte, California — including urgent care — as well as remotely via telemedicine. If you have symptoms like coughing that won’t go away, talk to us about your concerns. Here are some rules of thumb that Dr. Sargeant uses to determine whether you have bronchitis or pneumonia.

Coughing and lung conditions

Your lungs in your chest regulate your body’s air supply. Invading germs can compromise parts of your lung function, resulting in conditions like pneumonia and bronchitis. Damage to your lungs from bad habits like smoking can complicate the situation, as well.

If your lungs are struggling, you may cough frequently. This reflex is part of your lungs struggling to function. However, coughing can cause physical complications as well, tearing up tissue in your esophagus and potentially triggering vomiting.

When you can’t stop coughing, get checked out by an urgent care provider. Once you receive a diagnosis of pneumonia or bronchitis, you can start treatment to address the issue and restore the condition of your lungs.

Bronchitis vs. pneumonia

Bronchitis and pneumonia are two very common types of lung condition associated with coughing symptoms. It’s important to determine which of these conditions is affecting you so you can receive the right treatment. 


Your lungs contain a bronchial tree, a structure of tubes that bring air into your lungs. After an infection, swelling and mucus can obstruct your bronchial tubes, leaving you struggling for breath.

Bronchitis may be caused by either a virus or a bacteria, and your symptoms include coughing that brings up mucus, chest pain, wheezing, shortness of breath, and mild fever.


When you develop pneumonia in one or both of your lungs, the air sacs in your lungs become congested with fluid due to infection. While bronchitis is limited to your bronchial tubes, pneumonia affects deeper lung tissues.

Pneumonia can be caused by a bacteria, a virus, or even a fungus. Your symptoms may include coughing, struggling to breath, chills, and fever. As pneumonia gets worse, it may feel as though you have a whole-body infection.

Symptoms of both conditions are fairly similar. That's why you need expert medical evaluation.

Treating your lung condition

At MIMPC, your provider uses diagnostic testing like chest X-rays to determine what type of lung condition you have. Then, you can start the right course of treatment to clear up your symptoms and restore your lung function.

Bacterial pneumonia can become severe rapidly, and it requires antibiotics for treatment, so it’s a good idea to get checked out if you think you could have this condition.

If you have a problematic cough that won’t go away, contact Dr. Sargeant and the team at Monrovia Internal Medicine & Primary Care today for evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment. Visit our virtual office now to book your appointment.

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