Pneumonia symptoms

How to tell if it’s bronchitis or pneumonia


An inflammation of the lungs, pneumonia has many of the same symptoms as bronchitis, including:

  • Persistent fever (often high)
  • Cough, often accompanied by yellow or green mucus
  • Chills, which sometimes cause tremors
  • Shortness of breath
  • Acute chest pain
  • Confusion (which mainly occurs in the elderly)

Although many signs can be similar, pneumonia is much more serious than acute bronchitis. It is more often caused by bacteria than by a virus, which means that antibiotics can be used to treat it. However, bacterial pneumonia can be a rapidly progressive disease that requires immediate attention, Boushey explains.

“Don’t wait too long for treatment,” he warns. “If you come in with very advanced pneumonia it may be too late. For people who come in right away, we have good treatment.”

When to consult a doctor

Older people suffer more from respiratory infections (whether viral or bacterial), especially if they have other health problems such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease or Cancer. If you have any symptoms, be careful and see your doctor.

“Anytime you have a fever or a cough, you should come in,” says Horovitz. “Whenever you feel bad you should come in, because you never know what you are dealing with. Don’t wait until you are in extremis.”

Your doctor will listen to your lungs and, if necessary, take an x-ray of your chest, which will identify a pneumonia infection.