Bronchitis is an infection or irritation of the bronchi, the passageways from the windpipe (trachea) to the lungs. Pneumonia, by contrast, is an infection or irritation of the lungs themselves. Both of these conditions are much more common in the winter, as they usually follow an upper respiratory infection.
Bouts of coughing, shaking, chills, fever, and chest pain are usually preceded by an upper respiratory infection (cold). Pneumonia shows classic signs of lung involvement (shallow breathing, cough and abnormal breath sounds), and a chest X-ray shows infiltration of fluid and lymph into the lungs.
Bronchitis and pneumonia can be caused by a variety of viruses and bacteria. In healthy individuals, pneumonia and bronchitis most often follow an insult to the immune system. Viral infection (especially influenza or the common cold), cigarette smoke and other noxious fumes, loss of consciousness (which depresses the gag reflex, allowing the breathing in or aspiration of fluids), cancer, or hospitalization (which increases exposure to organisms that can cause pneumonia) are all risk factors for bronchitis and pneumonia.
¹The Pill Book Guide to Natural Medicines, Michael Murray N.D., 2002
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