You had a cold and started to get better. You unexpectedly began to feel worse and you noticed that you are coughing much more. When you cough, your chest aches. You suspect that, this time, you’re really sick because you have a fever. You may also have shaking chills. Is this a return of your cold? It’s not very likely. You may have pneumonia or bronchitis. Learn to recognize the symptoms of bronchitis or pneumonia and when to seek medical treatment.
Bronchitis can develop after any upper respiratory infection such as a cold. Think of the times you’ve told yourself, “I have a chest cold.” This means your condition is getting worse – your cold has moved into your airways. You may be developing bronchitis, which is an infection of the airways leading to your lungs.
You might also notice symptoms such as a “productive” cough, which means that as you cough you bring up phlegm. This might be clear, green or yellow, or it could be streaked with blood. What if you’re feeling feverish and experiencing chills? You might also feel fatigued, as if physical effort wears you out. Your chest is uncomfortable and you may feel tightness and some chest pain. If you notice that it takes several weeks for your cough to go away, you could have chronic bronchitis. With acute bronchitis your symptoms won’t last as long, but you feel much worse.
Pneumonia isn’t a bad case of bronchitis. This illness is an infection located inside one or both of your lungs. If your provider diagnoses you with pneumonia, he (or she) may tell you that you have either bacterial pneumonia, viral pneumonia or mycoplasma pneumonia. Here’s what those symptoms look like:
- In bacterial pneumonia, patients usually develop a high fever with possible shaking chills. You may also have moderate or severe chest pain when you cough or draw in a deep breath. The cough produces a thick phlegm that is green, yellow or rust-colored.
- Viral pneumonia’s symptoms are like those of the flu: You’re feverish and headachy. You have muscle aches and a dry cough. You feel weak. What makes viral pneumonia different from the flu is that, within 12 to 36 hours of getting sick, you become short of breath and your cough is slightly productive. Your temperature may go up and breathing may become even more difficult – to the point where your lips take on a bluish tinge.
- Mycoplasma pneumonia’s or “walking pneumonia’s,” symptoms develop over a few days or weeks, with headache, fever, fatigue and a cough. See your provider if your fever is high, if you have shaking chills, your cough won’t let you sleep at night, you keep bringing up phlegm, wheeze or feel chest pain during coughing or when you pull in a deep breath.
How Pneumonia Differs From Bronchitis
Pneumonia develops in your lungs, while bronchitis develops in the airways that lead to your lungs. While both illnesses can make you feel very sick, one can become potentially life-threatening – pneumonia. If you have been diagnosed with pneumonia of any type and you feel like your chest is being crushed; if you are having significant difficulty breathing; you are coughing up lots of blood; or if your fingernails or lips have turned blue, call emergency services right away because you need emergency medical attention.
How Bronchitis Can Lead to Pneumonia
Can bronchitis lead to pneumonia? If you have not gotten medical attention for a case of bronchitis, it can lead into pneumonia. Your body’s immune defenses are weakened when you are sick, which makes it more difficult for you to fight off the bacteria or virus that causes pneumonia.
Don’t get caught napping by respiratory conditions. Learn to recognize the symptoms of bronchitis or pneumonia and to act quickly to save yourself unnecessary discomfort and expense.