Each disease is unique in either symptoms, treatment options or body part affected. Some diseases are actually complications of another disorder, if it is allowed to worsen. Confusion between symptoms is a common problem for doctors and patients alike. Take the case of bronchitis and influenza. Both include coughing, soreness in the throat and a runny nose among their symptoms, even though they affect different body areas. A misdiagnosis of any disease is not good, especially with influenza being highly contagious. In this article, we take an in-depth look into bronchitis vs flu comparison.
The bronchi are airways or tubes, that allow for the passage of air from and into the lungs. When they become swollen or inflamed, then bronchitis is said to have occurred. You can develop acute bronchitis, which is a short-term condition or chronic bronchitis, which counts as a life-threatening lung disease. Acute bronchitis is normally a viral infection. In rare cases, bacteria are the cause of the bronchitis. When a person is sick with influenza or common cold, then his condition could worsen, and spread to his lungs in the form of bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is a more serious and life-long condition of the lungs. Prolonged irritation of the delicate tissue in the bronchi can cause permanent harm to this area, resulting in long-term effects like thick mucus and a deep cough. Smoking is the predominant cause for chronic bronchitis.
The symptoms of influenza and the common cold are similar, however the two diseases are not the same, with different effects on the body. It is caused by viruses made up of RNA (Ribonucleic acid), as opposed to the rhinoviruses and coronaviruses of the common cold. Influenza is not meant to be taken lightly. Its virus form and family can cause serious harm, in a short infection period. It kills between 3,300 - 50,000 people per year. Flu is extremely contagious in nature, as the viruses adapt and evolve into new strains on infection. The best example of this adaptation is swine flu, where the virus family combined from 3 different species (human, bird and pig), to create a deadly influenza strain. The range of contagion is anyone within 6 feet can pick up the flu from an infected person. This characteristic of influenza can cause epidemics and on a world-wide scale, cause a pandemic.
To sum up the difference between bronchitis and flu, here is a tabular comparison of the basic facts:
|Body Areas Affected||Nose, throat and
|Chemical Make-up||RNA viruses||Viruses and bacteria|
|Who Is At Risk||Elderly, infants, pregnant women, kidney, heart or lung disease victims||Infants, seniors and smokers|
|Types||Influenza Type A, B, C||Chronic and acute|
|Duration||7-10 days||Acute - 1 week to a month, Chronic - 2-3 months in a year|
|Complications||Pneumonia, brain infection, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections||Pneumonia, pulmonary hypertension|
|Wheezing||Fever accompanied by chills and tremors|
|Shortness of breath||Body aches and pains|
|Slight or mild fever||Runny blocked nose with headaches|
|Deep repeated cough, with mucus and phlegm||Feeling tired and weak|
|Weakness and fatigue||Coughing and sneezing|
|Sore throat||Watery eyes|
|Slight pain in the chest area||Vomiting, diarrhea (common child symptom)|
|Blocked nose||Sore throat|
|Pain in throat||Sweating|
Diagnosis and Treatment
Using a stethoscope, the breathing pattern of an individual is observed. If abnormal sounds occur while breathing, a doctor may suggest a chest x-ray and lung function tests to provide a deeper analysis. Sputum sample analysis is used to detect infection signs and confirm if the bronchitis is viral or bacterial in nature. If the infecting agent is bacteria, then antibiotics are prescribed. To help ease bronchitis symptoms, doctors can advise the use of cough suppressants and medications for nose congestion and mucus.
With influenza, initial tests are similar to bronchitis, such as a chest X-ray and sputum sample analysis. But additional testing must be done of the blood and a more thorough physical examination, as flu effects are felt throughout the body. A highly accurate and effective way to confirm influenza, is to conduct an antigen detection test. This test involves swabbing the back of the nose or throat, to obtain a tissue sample, which is then tested for presence of DNA viruses. This disease needs to run its course to heal. For the very sick or people at risk of complications, antiviral drugs are prescribed to ease the symptoms. This is necessary, as if ignored and if you fall in the risk category, influenza can be fatal. Antivirals are also administered to reduce the risk of infection, for both the infected and those around him/her, who could get infected.
Prevention is better than cure and this motto is especially true for influenza. Clean and hygienic environment and personal habits are the most important steps in preventing the flu. To reduce the infection risk even further, vaccination for children and adults is recommended. Bronchitis in the acute form is not dangerous and needs to run its course. To prevent chronic bronchitis, avoid smoking and air pollutants. In the matter of flu vs bronchitis, one aspect is clear - keep clean and at the first sign of trouble, visit a doctor.