Bronchitis Versus Pneumonia: Comparison of Causes

The environment plays an important role in the overall health of all living things. For instance, a polluted body of water may cause abnormalities or even death of marine life while a polluted soil inhibits the growth of plant life. The same is true for people. We may be able to tolerate pollution to some extent, but it can slowly affect our health.

Bronchitis and pneumonia are among the most common illnesses that can be triggered by pollution. Some people easily confuse bronchitis vs pneumonia, but these two are completely different especially on their causes.


Bronchitis is an inflammation in the bronchial tubes, an airway between the lungs and the windpipe. In North America, about five percent of the population suffers from chronic bronchitis and women are more at risk.

There are two types of bronchitis, each with distinct triggering factors:

  • Acute bronchitis – This type is one that affects a person rapidly. It is normally caused by a common cold, influenza or flu virus that invades the respiratory tract. It may also be caused by germs that cause whooping cough and measles. Additionally, many people also suffer from acute bronchitis as a result of inhaling pollutants such as smoke, fumes or dust.
  • Chronic bronchitis – This type is characterized by a lingering cough that could last for at least three months during two consecutive years. The cough also normally comes with mucus. One of the top causes of this type of bronchitis is smoking and exposure to pollutants. Smokers, miners, welders and grain handlers are at greater risk of this disease.


Pneumonia is an inflammation affecting the lungs, particularly the alveoli. Pneumonia can be deadly if not given medical attention especially on babies, older adults and people with an impaired immune system.

The primary causes of pneumonia viruses and bacteria are from the environment and the air we breathe. Generally, the body has the capacity of preventing pneumonia-causing viruses and bacteria from infecting the lungs. However some of the germs can overpower a person’s immune system if it is weak or impaired. There are different types of pneumonia and they are classified according to the type of germs or virus that causes it:

  • Community acquired – This is perhaps the most common type of pneumonia. It may be caused by bacteria such as streptococcus pneumonia and bacteria-like organisms such as mycoplasma pneumonia. Fungi from the soil and bird droppings may also cause this type in some cases. For younger children, community acquired pneumonia is commonly caused by the same viruses that cause flu and colds as well as certain influenza virus.
  • Hospital acquired – Some people are infected with pneumonia after being hospitalized for a few days for a different condition. This type of pneumonia is more serious and is normally resistant to antibiotics. Those under the ventilator or those in intensive care units are at a greater risk of acquiring it.
  • Health care acquired – This type is common among patients living in health care facilities or outpatient clinics including dialysis centers.
  • Aspiration pneumonia –This type of pneumonia occurs when there is a disruption in the normal gag reflex as a result of inhaling liquid, food, saliva or vomit into the lungs.

Pneumonia and bronchitis remedies greatly depend on the cause of the underlying condition. If you have a persistent cough that lingers for more than a week, it is best to visit your doctor for the correct diagnosis and treatment.