May 18, 2021

Asthma vs. Bronchitis: What’s the Difference?

Asthma and bronchitis are conditions that cause difficulty breathing. While some of their symptoms are similar, there’s a difference between asthma and bronchitis in terms of their cause and treatment. In trying to determine bronchitis vs. asthma, you can start by looking at your symptoms.

Asthma Symptoms

  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing

You may notice that your symptoms are worse first thing in the morning or at night, and that they get amplified by triggers like exercise, pollen or cigarette smoke.

Bronchitis Symptoms:

  • Cough that produces green, white or yellow mucus
  • Tightness or soreness in the chest
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fatigue

Acute bronchitis symptoms typically resolve in anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Chronic bronchitis symptoms persist.

Can You Have Both Asthma and Bronchitis?

Asthma can make you more susceptible to bronchitis. When asthma and acute bronchitis occur at the same time, this is what’s known as chronic asthmatic bronchitis. And while asthma and bronchitis are two different conditions, it is possible that they can also occur in some people simultaneously. When this occurs, the condition might be termed ‘asthmatic bronchitis.’

What Are the Causes of Asthma and Bronchitis?

Doctors think asthma is caused by a combination of genetics and environmental factors. These triggers can include things like smoke and pollution.

Bronchitis can be acute or chronic. Acute bronchitis is caused by a viral or bacterial infection and is a short-term illness. Chronic bronchitis lasts longer and is caused by substances that irritate the lungs and airways.

If you have asthma or are prone to bronchitis, you should be aware of issues that can cause or worsen your symptoms. These include:

Viral Infection

Viral infections can cause bronchitis. While they don’t cause asthma, they can make breathing more difficult for people with the condition.


Cigarette smoke is an irritant that harms the lungs and can worsen breathing problems for people with asthma, acute bronchitis or chronic bronchitis.


A common question from people with breathing problems is, “Can allergies cause bronchitis?”. Yes, allergy triggers like dust, pollen, and cigarette smoke can cause what is known as allergic bronchitis. This can make it more difficult to determine if symptoms are caused by allergies or bronchitis since, in some cases, they are the result of allergy-induced bronchitis.

When To See a Doctor

You should see a doctor if you have ongoing breathing issues or a short-term problem with significant breathing impairment. You should seek immediate medical attention if you have a serious asthma attack that includes severe breathlessness and the inability to speak more than a few words at a time.

How Can I Treat Asthma or Bronchitis Conditions?

For people who ask, “How do I treat asthma?” or “How do I treat bronchitis?”, fortunately, the answer is that there are many ways to address these conditions. Bronchitis and asthma treatments include:

  • Prescriptions
  • Respiratory therapy (asthma breathing treatments)
  • Inhalants

Asthma, asthmatic bronchitis, acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis treatments can help people with these conditions breathe more freely and comfortably.

Get Relief

If you’re experiencing asthma or bronchitis symptoms, contact Baptist Health to schedule an appointment.

Learn More.