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Lung diseases

Bronchitis and pneumonia

07/06/2009

Question:

I had bronchitis and pneumonia at the same time. I still was able to goto work. I thought with pneumonia you would be realy sick and unable to get out of bed. But I had the both of them and still worked. How common is it to have both pneumonia and bronchitis at the same time?

Answer:

Bronchitis is inflammation of the large and medium sized airways (tubes) leading to your lungs. When it is acute, it is most often caused by a virus. In smokers, chronic bronchitis (due to smoking damage) can be acutely worsened and this is sometimes due to bacteria. Pneumonia is an infection and inflammation of the small air sacs that make up the lung tissue. Pneumonia can be due to a virus or a bacteria. In addition to cough, shortness of breath and feeling bad, pneumonia is often accompanied by fever and shadows on the chest Xray due to part of the lung being filled with pus, instead of air. In bronchitis, it is rare to have a high fever and the chest Xray is clear. It is difficult to know how often pneumonia also has bronchitis because we diagnose bronchitis on the basis of symptoms and a clear chest Xray. This does not, however, mean that there is not inflammation in the airways with pneumonia. Most likely pneumonia patients frequently have bronchitis as well. We don't have a way of testing for this and treatment for bronchitis would be handled by the pneumonia treatment.

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Response by:

James M O'Brien, Jr, MD James M O'Brien, Jr, MD
Former Associate Professor
Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University