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Understanding Bronchitis vs. COVID: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

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Medically Reviewed By: Alia Hanif Khan
November 27, 2023No Comments

Updated on November 27, 2023

Bronchitis vs. COVID: What's the Difference?


When it comes to respiratory illnesses, bronchitis and COVID-19 stand out as significant challenges. Both are respiratory disorders that can cause coughing, difficulty breathing, and other respiratory symptoms. While COVID-19 and bronchitis have some similar characteristics, there are also significant variances that can help in distinguishing the two. Let’s delve into a detailed comparison between Bronchitis vs. COVID-19 and unravel their unique features.

Bronchitis vs. COVID-19

Bronchitis is classified into two types:

  1. Acute bronchitis is a short-term infection caused by a virus.
  2. Chronic bronchitis is a more serious, long-term condition. It appears gradually rather than immediately.

Acute Bronchitis

Acute bronchitis, sometimes known as a chest cold, can result from viral or bacterial infections, as well as environmental factors. Viral infections that are known to cause the common cold or flu may be a well-known culprit responsible for acute bronchitis. A persistent cough is the most common sign of acute bronchitis.

Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis, like emphysema, is one of those lung disorders that is placed under the umbrella of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Recurrent bouts of acute bronchitis may lead to chronic bronchitis. However, smoking is the most common cause of chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is characterized by a wet cough that produces thick, brownish mucus. Other symptoms may include wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest pain.


COVID-19 is caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Unlike bronchitis, which can be caused by different environmental factors or infections, COVID-19 is specific to this novel coronavirus. Some people may be asymptomatic, while others may experience significant respiratory distress and consequences.

COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough, exhaustion, shortness of breath, and loss of taste or smell. However, the virus’s ability to impact several organ systems distinguishes it from bronchitis.

Bronchitis vs. COVID: What’s the Difference?

Apart from their distinct causes and symptoms, COVID-19 is distinguished from bronchitis by a number of additional criteria. One notable aspect is the contagiousness and transmission dynamics. COVID-19, predominantly transmitted through respiratory droplets, has a higher transmission rate than bronchitis, highlighting the importance of severe preventive measures.

Furthermore, the global significance of COVID-19 has driven unparalleled efforts in vaccine production and distribution, with multiple vaccinations now approved for use in emergency situations around the world. Bronchitis, on the other hand, despite its prevalence, has not prompted a comparable level of urgency in vaccine research.

In addition, the long-term effects of COVID-19, sometimes known as “long COVID,” are quite complex. Long after the acute phase of the illness, individuals who once tested positive for COVID-19 may struggle with its lasting symptoms or complications. Bronchitis is not often associated with such long-term complications. Various aspects contribute to the diverse nature of chronic respiratory disorders, necessitating a more nuanced understanding of effective management and public health strategies.

Can COVID be Mistaken for Bronchitis?

The overlapping symptoms of COVID-19 and bronchitis heighten the possibility of a misdiagnosis. Healthcare practitioners find difficulties distinguishing between the two, underlining the necessity of reliable diagnostic tools and developing a strong understanding of these respiratory disorders.

How do you know if you have Bronchitis or COVID-19?

Differentiating between bronchitis and COVID-19 involves taking into account factors other than conventional symptoms. While both may cause coughing and respiratory discomfort, COVID-19 is distinguished by the quick onset of anosmia (loss of smell) and ageusia (loss of taste).

Furthermore, COVID-19 may cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and diarrhea, which are less common in bronchitis. The temporal aspect of symptom development might also provide information; COVID-19 symptoms may worsen quickly, often accompanied by high temperature and acute exhaustion, whereas bronchitis symptoms may appear gradually.

Another significant feature is the predominance of various symptoms within specific age groups; for example, extreme fatigue may be more severe in elderly individuals with COVID-19. It is important to consider these complex features, as well as seek competent medical advice and proper tests for correct identification and appropriate management.

Bronchitis vs. COVID Diagnosis

Diagnostic Methods for Bronchitis

Diagnosing bronchitis requires a comprehensive approach that includes reviewing the patient’s medical history, examining symptoms, and, in some situations, using diagnostic procedures such as chest X-rays or sputum testing. Differentiating between acute and chronic bronchitis helps healthcare providers adjust treatment methods.

Diagnosis Methods for COVID-19

COVID-19 is frequently diagnosed with PCR or fast antigen assays. Understanding the dependability and limitations of these tests is essential, particularly during a global pandemic. Also, effective diagnosis requires taking into account the various variants of the virus.

Bronchitis vs. COVID: Treatment Approaches

Acute Bronchitis Treatment

Acute bronchitis is frequently treated with supportive care, emphasizing symptom relief. Antibiotics may be administered when bacterial infections are present. Navigating the complexities of when and how to take antibiotics for bronchitis is essential in this era of antibiotic resistance.

Chronic Bronchitis Treatment

Chronic bronchitis demands a combined strategy, including lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation and medications to relieve symptoms. Understanding the long-term treatment techniques for chronic bronchitis is vital in improving the quality of life for people suffering from this lifelong condition.

Treatment of COVID-19

COVID-19 treatment differs according to the degree of symptoms. Currently, in our arsenal against this viral invader, we have antiviral drugs, supportive care such as oxygen therapy, and, in severe cases, ventilator support. Navigating the rapidly evolving landscape of COVID-19 treatment methods is essential for tackling the global effect of the disease.


While bronchitis and COVID-19 share some respiratory symptoms, their etiology, diagnostic methods, and treatment options differ vastly. Understanding these disparities is essential for proper diagnosis, successful treatment, and implementation of public health preventive measures.

Understanding these distinctions is critical for patients and healthcare professionals to ensure proper diagnosis, appropriate treatment, and effective management of respiratory disorders.

Dr. Anusia Thourani

Author Dr. Anusia Thourani

Dr. Anusia is a Dentist and currently working as a Recruitment Associate at Revive Research Institute. Her cheerful personality and enthusiasm for her work in this organization make her a great part of our team.

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