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Difference between Upper Respiratory Infection and Bronchitis

Difference between Upper Respiratory Infection and Bronchitis

Upper respiratory infections and bronchitis are two terms that medical professionals use to describe very different health conditions. While they both involve coughing, difficulty breathing, and other unpleasant symptoms, there’s a major distinction between the two illnesses. To gain a clearer understanding of what separates these illnesses from one another so you can get the most effective treatments, keep reading for an in-depth look at upper respiratory infection vs. bronchitis.

What is Upper Respiratory Infection?

Respiratory infections are a common and easily-spreadable illness, and upper respiratory infection is one of the most prevalent. Upper Respiratory Infections (URIs) are caused by viruses like the rhinovirus or influenza, and cause inflammation in the upper part of the lungs, including the nose, throat, sinuses, and other areas.

Symptoms of URIs include sore throat, coughing, congestion, runny/stuffy nose, headaches, fever as well as decreased appetite, and fatigue. Generally, these infections will go away on their own after a week or more but if symptoms persist longer seeking medical attention is recommended to rule out any underlying conditions that may have caused the infection in the first place.

What is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is a respiratory infection of the lungs and bronchial tubes that can cause coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and other uncomfortable physical symptoms. Bronchitis can be caused by both viruses and bacteria.

  • Symptoms of Bronchitis include chest pain from coughing and difficulty breathing due to mucus buildup in the lungs. People who suffer from Bronchitis may also experience fatigue, a fever, headaches, and an overall feeling of ill health.
  • Proper diagnosis by a medical professional is necessary to determine if Bronchitis is caused by a virus or bacteria as treatment differs depending on the cause.
  • Treatment may range from taking a course of antibiotics to simply elevating one’s temperature. Bronchitis can be quite serious if left untreated so it is important to see your doctor promptly if you have any concerns that you may have this condition.

Difference between Upper Respiratory Infection and Bronchitis

Respiratory infections and bronchitis are both common illnesses that affect the lungs, however, there are some important differences between them. Respiratory infections can be viral or bacterial in nature and often result in sore throat, runny nose, coughing, sneezing as well as chest discomfort and congestion.

  • Bronchitis typically presents with a cough that persists for several days along with an increase in mucus production which may have a more productive quality than that of respiratory infection.
  • Respiratory infection is often milder and resolves within several days while bronchitis can remain longer, sometimes even over a month if left untreated.
  • Respiratory infection usually does not require antiviral therapy unless the symptoms continue past normal duration whereas bronchitis can benefit from antibiotics depending on the cause.

Knowing the distinctions between these two conditions is essential when it comes to providing proper treatment and prevention options to ensure optimal lung health.


If you’re feeling under the weather and think you might have an upper respiratory infection, it’s important to understand the difference between this and bronchitis. An upper respiratory infection is generally less serious than bronchitis and will resolve itself without treatment within a week or two. However, if your symptoms are severe or last longer than three weeks, you may have bronchitis and should see a doctor. Knowing the difference between these two conditions can help you get the treatment you need and feel better sooner.

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