Differences Between Acute Bronchitis and Pneumonia

Acute bronchitis and pneumonia share many of the same symptoms, and some people with acute bronchitis are at risk for getting pneumonia. Although acute bronchitis usually goes away within a few weeks, pneumonia can be a serious condition, especially in older adults.

The following table outlines some differences between acute bronchitis and pneumonia. There are variations in symptoms of both conditions, so if you think you might have pneumonia, always check with your doctor.

Symptoms of acute bronchitis and pneumonia
Symptom Acute bronchitis Pneumonia


  • Dry cough at first (does not produce mucus)
  • After a few days, cough may bring up mucus from the lungs. The mucus may be clear, yellow, or green, and may be tinged with blood.
  • Cough often brings up mucus from the lungs.
  • Mucus may be rusty or green or tinged with blood.


  • Fever is not present or is mild.
  • Fever is often higher than 101°F (38.5°C).


  • X-rays appear normal.
  • Usually goes away in 2 to 3 weeks
  • Heart rate faster than 100 beats a minute
  • Breathing faster than 24 breaths a minute
  • Shaking, "teeth-chattering" chills
  • X-rays do not appear normal.
  • May last longer than 2 to 3 weeks

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Robert L. Cowie, MB, FCP(SA), MD, MSc, MFOM - Pulmonology

Current as ofSeptember 9, 2014