How to Differentiate Bronchitis from Asthma

Bronchitis and Asthma are two conditions that have caused a lot of suffering to many people. They both cause inflammation of the airways, which leads to swelling. That level of swelling is what makes it hard for people to breathe. The question is, how can you know if you have bronchitis or asthma? This guide helps you differentiate the symptoms and see the signs you already need to set an appointment with your doctor.

Bronchitis Symptoms

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the trachea and the smaller air passages in the lungs. When this happens, the passages become swollen, which causes irritation and inflammation.

Bronchitis can be caused by viruses, bacteria, allergies, and smoking. In children, it could be caused by repeated exposure to secondhand smoke.

Symptoms of Bronchitis include:

  • Cough
  • Sore Throat
  • Low Fever
  • Runny Nose
  • Body Aches
  • Difficulty Breathing

Asthma Symptoms

Asthma is a chronic lung condition that is characterized by the inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from the lungs. When the tubes get swollen, it makes it hard for the air to flow in and out of the lungs. It also results in the inability to breathe, which makes the airways close up.

Asthma Symptoms Include:

  • Tightness in the chest
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing up phlegm
  • Shortness of breath

If you have asthma, it is possible for the condition to get worse over time. Therefore, you need to know when it is time to seek medical advice.

How is Asthma Different from Bronchitis?

Bronchitis and asthma have similar symptoms. So you cannot differentiate between the two by the signs. However, there are certain things you can do. In order to differentiate between asthma and bronchitis, you need to know the differences. The symptoms are quite similar, but they each progress differently:

  • Bronchitis has a cough that is usually a lot worse than the cough associated with asthma.
  • Bronchitis is more of an acute condition, as opposed to asthma.
  • Bronchitis causes discomfort at night and during the day, as opposed to asthma.
  • Bronchitis responds well to antibiotics, as opposed to asthma.
  • Asthma is a lot easier for the patient to manage.
  • Bronchitis is usually a bacterial infection.
  • It takes a lot longer to get asthma relief.

What Are the Causes and Risk Factors of Asthma and Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection or any number of viruses. It can also be developed by allergic reactions and smoking. The patient can develop bronchitis instantly. It can also develop over time because of repeated exposure to secondhand smoke.

There are several factors that can increase the risk of developing bronchitis. Heredity is one of the main factors, especially if you have a family history of developing bronchitis.

On the other hand, Asthma is caused by an immune system malfunction. This causes the airways to swell, which can make breathing a lot more difficult. It can also be caused by allergies, exercise, cold weather, dust, pollution, dust mites, mold, and any number of other things.

The risk factors of asthma differ depending on the patient. Some of the most common risk factors are:

  • Family history
  • Genetic predisposition
  • History of allergies
  • Exposure to toxins or pollutants
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Exposure to food or airborne allergies
  • History of asthma in the family


Many people are diagnosed with either bronchitis or asthma, not knowing the difference between the two. It’s crucial for you to know the symptoms of both conditions in order to seek medical advice whenever necessary. While both of them are not contagious, they are both very uncomfortable and can be life-threatening.

At Garden State Medical Group, we believe in providing comprehensive and individualized care for all our patients. We diagnose and treat common diseases and conditions to keep you healthy and strong. Schedule an appointment with us whenever you need help from a reliable primary care doctor.

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