Key Difference – Bronchitis vs Upper Respiratory Infection
Though Bronchitis and Upper Respiratory Infections both refer to respiratory problems, a distinct difference can be noted between these two conditions due to the location of the infections and symptoms.The bronchial tree represents the dividing tubes of the lower airway. Inflammation of the mucous membrane in these bronchial tubes is referred to as bronchitis. The key difference between Bronchitis and Upper Respiratory Infections is that bronchitis is a type of lower respiratory tract infections while upper respiratory tract infection as its name suggests, is an infection in the upper airway. Sometimes, upper respiratory tract infections can spread to involve bronchial tubes causing bronchitis. There could be situations where the concurrent involvement of both upper and lower airways.
What is Bronchitis?
Bronchitis or inflammation of the bronchi can occur commonly with viral infections. These respiratory viruses include respiratory syncytial virus, influenza viruses, etc. Few bacterial infections and tuberculosis can also cause bronchitis. Typically, it causes a productive cough and respiratory wheeze or stridor; these are the sounds that originate in the lower airway. Most of the time, bronchitis per say is rare, and it is usually associated with infection of the surrounding respiratory tract. Bronchitis in vulnerable patients such as infants, elderly, immunocompromised, with other co-morbidities can lead to more serious complications and a worse outcome. Bronchitis can be two forms based on the duration of symptoms. Acute bronchitis usually lasts for few weeks while chronic bronchitis symptoms last for more than 6 weeks. Long standing smoking can lead to chronic bronchitis due to the damage to bronchial mucosa. Treatment of bronchitis includes antibiotics, antivirals, bronchodilators and steroids as well as supportive measures such as steam inhalation and physiotherapy.
What is Upper Respiratory Infection?
Upper respiratory infections are very common, and we all have experienced at least few episodes during our lives.In most cases, upper respiratory infections are caused by respiratory viruses such as adenovirus and coronavirus. Common symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing, nasal block as well as systemic symptoms such as fever, myalgia. Upper respiratory infections are spread by respiratory droplets and through direct contact with respiratory secretions of an affected person. Usually, upper respiratory infections are self-limiting. However, symptomatic treatment such as antihistamines, steroids may be required during the course of the illness. Upper respiratory infections are commonly acquired in crowded places and communities.
What is the difference Between Bronchitis and Upper Respiratory Infection?
Definition of Bronchitis and Upper Respiratory Infection
Bronchitis: Bronchitis is the inflammation of the mucous membrane of the bronchi.
Upper respiratory tract infection: Upper respiratory tract infection is infection in nose, sinuses, pharynx or larynx.
Characteristics of Bronchitis and Upper Respiratory Infection
Bronchitis: Bronchitis causes inflammations of the lower respiratory tract.
Upper respiratory tract infection: Upper respiratory tract infection affects upper airway tract including the nose, sinuses, pharynx or larynx.
Bronchitis: Bronchitis mainly causes lower respiratory tract symptoms including productive cough, respiratory wheeze or stridor.
Upper respiratory tract infection: Upper respiratory tract infections causes sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, etc.
Duration of symptoms
Bronchitis: Bronchitis symptoms can last for weeks as it takes time to repair damaged mucosa.
Upper respiratory tract infection: Upper respiratory tract infections usually last only for few days, and it is self-limiting.
Bronchitis: For bronchitis, smoking is a well-known risk factor. It can directly damage respiratory mucosa, and damaged mucosa is vulnerable to get infections.
Upper respiratory tract infection: Upper respiratory tract infections are common in crowded communities as well as with poor housing facilities.
Bronchitis: Bronchitis usually need specific treatment such as antibiotics and bronchodilators.
Upper respiratory tract infection: Mild upper respiratory tract infections usually do not require any treatment.
Bronchitis: For bronchitis smoking cessation is important in the prevention.
Upper respiratory tract infection: Good hand hygiene in an important measure to prevent upper respiratory tract infection.Reference: bronchitis. (n.d.) Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary. (2012). Retrieved August 28 2015 from http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/bronchitis Image Courtesy: “Bronchitis” by National Heart Lung and Blood Institute – National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. (Public Domain) via Commons “Blausen gallery 2014”. Wikiversity Journal of Medicine. DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010. ISSN 20018762. – Own work.(CC BY 3.0) via Commons