Here is some info from WebMD. Sorry that it’s so long but it seems to be written at a reasonable level for non-medical people to understand (I looked in medical/ pharmacy school references and there was a lot of clinical jargon). Hope you feel better soon!
What is bronchitis?
Bronchitis means that the tubes that carry air to the lungs (the bronchial tubes) are inflamed and irritated. When this happens, the tubes swell and produce mucus. This makes you cough.
There are two types of bronchitis:
- Acute bronchitis usually comes on quickly and gets better after 2 to 3 weeks. Most healthy people who get acute bronchitis get better without any problems. See a picture of acute bronchitis .
- Chronic bronchitis keeps coming back and can last a long time, especially in people who smoke. Chronic bronchitis means you have a cough with mucus most days of the month for 3 months of the year for at least 2 years in a row.
This topic focuses on acute bronchitis. Both children and adults can get acute bronchitis.
What causes acute bronchitis?
Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a virus. Often a person gets acute bronchitis after having an upper respiratory tract infection such as a cold or the flu. In rare cases, acute bronchitis is caused by bacteria.
Acute bronchitis also can be caused by breathing in things that irritate the bronchial tubes, such as smoke. It also can happen if a person inhales food or vomit into the lungs.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptom of acute bronchitis is a cough that is dry and hacking at first. After a few days, the cough may bring up mucus. You may have a low feverand feel tired.
Acute bronchitis symptoms usually start 3 or 4 days after an upper respiratory tract infection. Most people get better in 2 to 3 weeks. But some people continue to have a cough for more than 4 weeks.
Pneumonia can have symptoms like acute bronchitis. Because pneumonia can be serious, it is important to know the differences between the two illnesses.Symptoms of pneumonia can include a high fever, shaking chills, and shortness of breath.
How is acute bronchitis diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and examine you. This usually gives the doctor enough information to find out if you have acute bronchitis.
In some cases, the doctor may take a chest X-ray to make sure that you don’t have pneumonia or another lung problem.
How is it treated?
Most people can treat symptoms of acute bronchitis at home. Drink plenty of fluids. Use an over-the-counter cough medicine with an expectorant if your doctor recommends it. This can help you bring up mucus when you cough. Suck on cough drops or hard candies to soothe a dry or sore throat. Cough drops won’t stop your cough, but they may make your throat feel better.
What is pneumonia?
Pneumonia is a lung infection that can make you very sick. You may cough, run a fever, and have a hard time breathing. For most people, pneumonia can be treated at home. It often clears up in 2 to 3 weeks. But older adults, babies, and people with other diseases can become very ill. They may need to be in the hospital.
You can get pneumonia in your daily life, such as at school or work. This is called community-associated pneumonia. You can also get it when you are in a hospital or nursing home. This is called healthcare-associated pneumonia. It may be more severe because you already are ill. This topic focuses on pneumonia you get in your daily life.
What causes pneumonia?
Germs called bacteria or viruses usually cause pneumonia.
Pneumonia usually starts when you breathe the germs into your lungs. You may be more likely to get the disease after having a cold or the flu. These illnesses make it hard for your lungs to fight infection, so it is easier to get pneumonia. Having a long-term, or chronic, disease like asthma, heart disease, cancer, or diabetes also makes you more likely to get pneumonia.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of pneumonia caused by bacteria usually come on quickly. They may include:
- Cough. You will likely cough up mucus (sputum) from your lungs. Mucus may be rusty or green or tinged with blood.
- Fast breathing and feeling short of breath.
- Shaking and “teeth-chattering” chills. You may have this only one time or many times.
- Chest pain that often feels worse when you cough or breathe in.
- Fast heartbeat.
- Feeling very tired or feeling very weak.
- Nausea and vomiting.
When you have mild symptoms, your doctor may call this “walking pneumonia.”
Older adults may have different, fewer, or milder symptoms. They may not have a fever. Or they may have a cough but not bring up mucus. The main sign of pneumonia in older adults may be a change in how well they think. Confusion ordelirium is common. Or, if they already have a lung disease, that disease may get worse.
Symptoms caused by viruses are the same as those caused by bacteria. But they may come on slowly and often are not as obvious or as bad.
How is pneumonia diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and do a physical exam. He or she may order a chest X-ray and a blood test. This is usually enough for your doctor to know if you have pneumonia. You may need more tests if you have bad symptoms, are an older adult, or have other health problems. In general, the sicker you are, the more tests you will have.
Your doctor may also test mucus from your lungs to find out if bacteria are causing your pneumonia. Finding out what is causing your pneumonia can help your doctor choose the best treatment for you.
How is it treated?
If pneumonia is caused by bacteria, your doctor will give you antibiotics. These almost always cure pneumonia caused by bacteria. You need to take all of your antibiotics so you get well. Do not stop taking them because you feel better. Take them exactly as your doctor tells you.
Pneumonia can make you feel very sick. But after you take antibiotics, you should start to feel much better. Call your doctor if you do not start to feel better after 2 to 3 days of antibiotics. Call your doctor right away if you feel worse.
There are things you can do to feel better during your treatment. Get plenty of rest and sleep, and drink lots of liquids. Do not smoke. If your cough keeps you awake at night, talk to your doctor about using cough medicine.
You may need to go to the hospital if you have bad symptoms, a weak immune system, or another serious illness.
Pneumonia caused by a virus usually is not treated with antibiotics. Sometimes, antibiotics may be used to prevent complications. But home treatment, such as rest and taking care of your cough, usually is all that is done.
How can you prevent pneumonia?
If you are older than 65, you smoke, or you have a heart or lung problem, you may want to get a pneumococcal vaccine. It may not keep you from getting pneumonia. But if you do get pneumonia, you probably will not be as sick.
You can also lower your chances of getting pneumonia by staying away from people who have the flu, colds, measles, or chickenpox. You may get pneumonia after you have one of these illnesses. Wash your hands often. This helps prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria that may cause pneumonia.