/ Pneumonia
Can Bronchitis Turn Into Pneumonia?

Can Bronchitis Turn Into Pneumonia?

While it is not common, bronchitis can turn into pneumonia. This happens when viral or bacterial bronchitis goes untreated causing the infection to spread from the bronchial tubes down into the lungs. Once in the lungs the alveoli can become infected, which constitutes pneumonia.

Read on to learn more about bronchitis and pneumonia.

What is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is an infection of the bronchial tubes. These tubes connect your trachea to your lungs and carry air as you breathe in and out. When exposed to harmful viruses or bacteria they become inflamed and irritated. This causes a cough that can bring up mucus, also known as a productive cough.

There are two kinds of bronchitis, acute and chronic.

Acute Bronchitis

Acute bronchitis is sometimes called a “chest cold” and typically clears up in 7 to 10 days; but a cough may linger for a few weeks as the body gets rid of phlegm.

A virus that is similar to or the same as the influenza virus typically causes acute bronchitis.

Some symptoms of acute bronchitis are:

  • Cough
  • Production of mucus (sputum), which can be clear, white, yellowish-gray or green in color — in rare cases it may be streaked with blood
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Slight fever and chills
  • Chest discomfort

Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis includes the symptoms above but they last at least 3 months. Bronchitis may also come back shortly after recovery.

Chronic bronchitis is common in smokers and smoking cigarettes is the most common cause. Chronic bronchitis can lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible if you think you are suffering from chronic bronchitis.

What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection of the alveoli in the lungs. Alveoli are tiny air sacs in the lungs that help carry oxygen into your bloodstream.

When they are infected they get inflamed and irritated. Sometimes they can become filled with puss. This can make it hard and in some cases painful to breathe.

Pneumonia also causes a cough. Usually you will cough up mucus, yellow or green in color.

Types of Pneumonia

There are two types of pneumonia that can stem from bronchitis.

  • Bacterial Pneumonia — this is pneumonia caused by bacteria. It can stem from bronchitis if the bacteria causing bronchitis spread down into the lungs. It is important to seek treatment for bacterial bronchitis right away to prevent this from happening.

  • Viral pneumonia — this is pneumonia caused by a virus it can also stem from bronchitis. Typically respiratory viruses are the cause, as they infect the lungs. Viral pneumonia is especially common in children and older people. This type of pneumonia is rarely serious and typically goes away faster than bacterial pneumonia with proper treatment.

Who is at Risk of Pneumonia?

Depending on age and general health, some peope have a higher risk of pneumonia and should be extra carful, especially when afflicted by bronchitis.

These people include:

  • Infants to 2 year olds
  • People 65 and older
  • Stroke survivors who have swallowing problems or are bedridden. (Small amounts of liquids in the lungs from improper swallowing can build up and lead to pneumonia.)
  • Those with weakened immune systems due to disease or medications
  • People who smoke, abuse drugs and alcohol
  • People with asthma, cystic fibrosis, diabetes or heart failure

Depending on the type, and cause of pneumonia, your treatment plan will vary. So it is very important to get a proper diagnosis from your doctor.

And remember, bronchitis only turns into pneumonia if it is left untreated, so be sure to seek medical attention if you believe you are suffering from bronchitis to prevent the infection from worsening.

If you think you are suffering from bronchitis or pneumonia book an appointment with a PlushCare physician today and get a prescription online.

Read more about bronchitis and pneumonia

Doctor on phone
Leah McCabe

Leah McCabe

Leah likes writing about health and science subjects. Through her writing she hopes to help people of all backgrounds have equal access to information and quality healthcare.

Read More