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  • Allison G

Bronchitis and Pneumonia: What’s the Difference?

With cold and flu season in full swing, it is important to take as many precautions as possible to avoid these illnesses. Although most people recover from colds or the flu fairly quickly, either illness could lead to bronchitis or pneumonia.

Symptoms of bronchitis and pneumonia are fairly similar. They include:

· Coughing up phlegm

· Coughing

· Fever, chills, body ache, and feeling ill

· Shortness of breath

· Chest pain or discomfort

While both bronchitis and pneumonia are infections of the lungs, there are important differences between the two conditions. Understanding these differences is crucial for seeking the proper treatment and getting back on your feet as soon as possible.

What is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is an infection of the bronchial tubes (airways), which carry air to the lungs. There are two classifications of bronchitis:

· Acute bronchitis. This form of bronchitis lasts just a few days or weeks and typically goes away on its own because most bronchitis is viral. Other bronchitis can be due to bacteria and may progress to become pneumonia. Treatments, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol, are usually only needed to manage uncomfortable symptoms.

· Chronic bronchitis. This form of bronchitis is more serious than acute bronchitis. It is a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in which the bronchial tubes produce excess amounts of mucus. Smoking is the most common cause of chronic bronchitis.

The doctor can diagnose bronchitis by assessing your symptoms as well as listening for a rattling sound in your lungs using a stethoscope. If the infection is bacterial, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, and if you’re asthmatic or experiencing severe coughing and wheezing an inhaler may be the appropriate treatment option.

What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection in the alveoli, or tiny air sacs (which make up the lung tissues), in one or both of the lungs. This infection can come from bacteria, viruses or fungi. This infection is commonly spread through the air (coughing or sneezing), although it can also occur when bacteria or viruses in the nose and sinuses spread to the lungs.

Pneumonia can be prevented by treating sinus infection and bacterial bronchitis before the infection travels further into the lungs tissues and becoming pneumonia. Vaccination to prevent pneumococcal pneumonia, the worst kind of bacterial pneumonia one can get is one very important immunization – especially in adults older than 65 and people who are immunocompromised. About one million people are hospitalized every year due to pneumonia – about 50,000 of which ultimately die from complications of the disease.

At-Home Prevention and Self-Care for Bronchitis and Pneumonia

Keeping the following lifestyle tips in mind can help you avoid getting a cold, the flu, and ultimately bronchitis or pneumonia:

· Wash your hands regularly

· Clean surfaces that are touched often as much as possible

· Make sure to cough or sneeze into a tissue or into your elbow instead of into the air

· Manage any ongoing medical conditions you may have that could make you more susceptible to getting sick (such as diabetes, asthma or heart disease)

· Quit smoking, if applicable

If you do end up catching bronchitis or pneumonia, and your symptoms are not severe, there are a few self-care strategies that can help you through the illness. These include:

· Drinking plenty of fluids

· Resting as much as possible

· Taking over-the-counter pain relievers to manage pain and reduce fever

When to Seek Medical Treatment

The cold or flu on their own do not necessarily require a trip to the doctor, but complications can arise from both illnesses that necessitate urgent attention. You should seek immediate medical treatment if any of the following symptoms occur:

· Your cough persists after your cold or flu is gone

· You have a persistent fever, especially a fever over 101°

· Coughing up discolored phlegm. Clear to cloudy is considered normal, while yellow or green is more concerning.

· Coughing up blood

· Wheezing

· Experiencing night sweats

· Getting worse with fever, chills, body ache, and feeling ill

If you have any doubts at all, do not hesitate to consult a doctor to at least rule out a potentially dangerous condition. The friendly staff at Medallus Medical can devise the right treatment plan for you and help you to feel better sooner.

Reviewed by: Dr. Rachot Vacharothone, MD

As flu season is reaching its peak for this year, recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that between 8 and 9 million people have already been sickened by the respiratory virus so far this year.

While the flu can strike at any time of year, the typical “flu season” begins in October and reaches its peak between December and February – with most flu activity dying down by May. Preventing the spread of flu is a top public health concern in the US, especially for vulnerable populations like the very old, the very young, and the immunocompromised. According to the CDC, more than 80,000 people died from the flu during the 2016-2017 season, while 900,000 others were hospitalized.

Complications related to the flu can be mitigated with early treatment, so it is important to know the signs and symptoms of the flu. These include:

· Fevers

· Chill

· Persistent cough

· Sore throat

· Fatigue

· Muscle or body aches

· Runny or stuffy nose

On an individual level, there are simple steps people can take to help do their part in helping to avoid the spread of flu. Here are five ways you and your family can avoid the flu this season:

1. Get vaccinated.

Getting the flu vaccine is the single most effective way to prevent the flu every year. Each year the seasonal flu vaccine is specially-formulated to protect against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season.

For the 2018-2019 season, there are a few options from which to choose. The best option for you will depend on a few factors – including age, health status and preference. Options include:

· Standard dose flu shots

· High-dose shots

· Shots made with adjuvant, which is safer for older people

· Shots made with virus grown in cell culture

· Shots formulated using a vaccine production technology (recombinant vaccine) that does not require use of the flu virus

· Nasal spray vaccines

Although the ideal time to get the flu shot is before the end of October, it is definitely not too late for this year. For your convenience, the friendly staff at Medallus Medical can provide flu shots on a walk-in basis.

2. Avoid contact with sick people.

This may seem obvious, but staying away from people who appear sick can protect you from getting sick. This is especially important in situations where you may find yourself in close quarters with others – such as in an office or on public transportation.

3. Stay home when you are feeling ill.

Make sure to stay home from work, school or running errands when you feel yourself getting sick. This will not only protect others from catching an illness from you, but it can also help protect you even if you do not have the flu currently. You are more likely to catch the flu when your immune system is weakened.

4. Cover your nose and mouth.

If you feel a cough or sneeze coming on, make sure to cover your mouth and nose. This can help protect the people around you from getting sick.

5. Wash your hands

Unwashed hands are among the most common ways the flu is spread. Washing hands can help protect you from germs you may pick up from touching public objects, such as doors or office supplies. If soap and water are not immediately available to you, use an alcohol-based hand rub to kill off any lingering germs.

Reviewed by: Dr. Rachot K. Vacharothone, MD

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