Despite being officially declared as spring, the weather is still a bit mercurial in some temperate countries, and winter conditions still persist. As a result, a number of diseases and infections that are known to be prevalent during the cold season might still be present. One of which is bronchitis. When it comes to this disease, one paranoia that you may have is wondering how to tell if bronchitis is turning into pneumonia as it is one of the complications related to it.
Another reason why you may be paranoid that your bronchitis is turning into pneumonia is that the symptoms are hard to differentiate especially if you are not too familiar with them. Medically speaking, both diseases affect areas of the lungs, but they require completely different treatments.
Hence, if you are curious as to how to tell if bronchitis is turning into pneumonia, we’re here to help. Throughout this piece, we will explain the unique symptoms of each disease.
What is Bronchitis?
Bronchitis is a condition wherein the bronchi or tubes that are responsible for the passage of air to your lungs become inflamed. This usually results in productive coughing, wheezing, fatigue, a runny or stuffy nose, congestion, discomfort, and shortness of breath. At times, you might even have a fever.
There are two types of bronchitis, namely acute and chronic. Acute bronchitis usually goes away with treatment or may not even require a visit to a doctor as OTC medication can help with the relief of the symptoms. However, this will depend on the cause. Sometimes bronchitis may follow a cold, and they cannot be treated with antibacterial meds but with antivirals.
The symptoms of chronic bronchitis tend to be recurrent, and you can experience flare-ups several times a year. Hence, if your initial symptoms don’t clear up after several weeks, it may be possible that you have developed chronic bronchitis.
Further, if chronic bronchitis is left untreated, it makes your body susceptible to other infections since continuous bouts of coughing tend to weaken the defense mechanism of your respiratory tract. This is where pneumonia might start to develop.
What is Pneumonia?
To be clear, pneumonia isn’t bronchitis gone extremely bad, but it is actually caused when the causative agent of bronchitis has already infected either or both of your lungs. Pneumonia can either be bacterial, viral or mycoplasmal in nature. It has similar symptoms to bronchitis, so some people may leave it untreated. However, once it gets worse, the sufferer become more susceptible to death.
Antibiotics are used to treat the symptoms of pneumonia as a bacterium most often causes it. It is a disease with a fast life cycle, so it requires almost immediate attention, and there is a good chance of survival once detected early. In bacterial pneumonia, symptoms include high fever, chest pains especially when coughing or breathing, and mucus that is thick with rust, green or yellow color.
On the other hand, people with viral pneumonia have symptoms similar to the flu. They include a fever, headaches and muscle aches, as well as a dry cough. Another serious symptom is shortness of breath that may turn your lips blue. The symptoms of this pneumonia appear within 12 to 36 hours after infection. Mycoplasmal pneumonia develops over a couple of weeks with headaches, a fever and a cough that keeps you up at night.
How to Tell if Bronchitis is Turning into Pneumonia?
The simplest way to tell if your bronchitis is turning into pneumonia is to observe the change in symptoms from bronchitis to pneumonia. It may also be helpful to monitor how long your bronchitis symptoms last, and whether or not they show signs of gradual improvement.
As mentioned earlier, bronchitis will usually make you cough out colored phlegm or mucus that is not too thick. When it is starting to become pneumonia, the mucus will be thicker than usual. Thus, expectorating it would be more difficult. Also, when you cough, the chest pains will be more painful than the ones you experience in bronchitis.
In addition, you will have more shortness of breath episodes when your bronchitis is getting worst and will soon become pneumonia. Further, your temperature will be ranging from 39 to 40 degrees Celsius if you are already starting to develop pneumonia. Lastly, if you have bloody mucus, then you no longer have bronchitis but pneumonia, which is something that you should not wait for.
How to Prevent Having Bronchitis and Pneumonia?
There is actually a vaccine that will help to protect you against bacterial pneumonia. You may not have heard about it because it is not heavily marketed and is mostly recommended for people over the age of 65, although some preexisting medical conditions may require that you take it before that age.
You should also take necessary steps to prevent the spread of infections by practicing proper hygiene. Always remember that bronchitis usually follows a common cold or flu, so you should practice washing your hands regularly, using hand sanitizes and eating food that enhances the function of your immune system.
Changes in lifestyle such as refraining from smoking cigarette can also help prevent the development of bronchitis. People who also have GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease should always treat their symptoms and flare-ups as it can lead to the irritation of their airways, making them prone to viruses and bacteria.
Pneumonia differs from bronchitis because of where it develops. While bronchitis develops in your respiratory passages, pneumonia develops in your lungs. Pneumonia, unlike bronchitis, is life-threatening and it requires emergency medical treatment especially if you are already coughing out blood, have difficulty breathing, and your lips and nails are turning blue.
To prevent the development of pneumonia, you ought to track your symptoms and talk to your doctor about any concerns or paranoias that you may have. Also, now that you are aware of the signs that you need to watch out for, if you suspect that your bronchitis is developing into pneumonia, rather than self-diagnosing, you should consult your doctor immediately. Sometimes, going with your gut feeling might actually save your life.