Difference between Bronchitis and Whooping Cough

Though both bronchitis and whooping cough are respiratory problems with similar symptoms, these two differ in terms of their causes and diagnoses. In fact, their treatment methods also differ significantly. Thus, instead of treating them on your own on the basis of your assumptions, you should always consult your doctor.


Bronchitis vs Whooping Cough

Bronchitis is a condition of the bronchi. The inflammation in your air tubes, which are responsible for taking oxygen to the lungs, is termed as bronchitis. This condition may vary from severe to chronic. Research by the American Lung Association suggests that acute bronchitis may be a consequence of viruses or bacteria. A person with acute bronchitis may experience fever, breathlessness, or yellow-green phlegm. On the other hand, a patient with chronic bronchitis may suffer from long-term cough that produces mucus. Generally, this condition is caused by smoking. The victim of the condition may feel fatigued, may experience shortness of breath or may get cough. It is easy to get rid of acute bronchitis in a few days, but chronic bronchitis may take months to be cured.

Whooping Cough
Bordetella pertussis

Whooping cough, which is also termed pertussis, is caused by Bordetella pertussis, a bacterium. This is an airborne substance that is communicable through nasal secretions of the victim who may show symptoms like subconjunctival hemorrhages, vomiting after coughing, paroxysmal cough, rib fractures, or urinary incontinence in severe cases. Whooping cough may develop for about 21 days or even more. Culturing of nasopharyngeal swabs, serological methods, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) are some common diagnosis methods used in labs. The World Health Organization suggests regular use of pertussis vaccine as a preventative method of avoiding the disease.

Bronchitis vs Whooping Cough

What’s the difference between bronchitis and whooping cough?

Bronchitis and whooping cough differ in terms of their causes. Whereas bronchitis is defined as  inflammation of the bronchi (large or medium in size), and is caused by different bacteria or viruses, Pertussis or whooping cough is a respiratory disease that occurs due to the Bordetella pertussis bacterium and is therefore a bacterial infection.

Experts know that vaccine can prevent pertussis, and in fact vaccination programs  are widespread in many  western countries. Bronchitis may also be experienced as a symptom of pertussis.

How to treat the two?

The treatment strategies for both conditions differ widely. Acute bronchitis can be treated with supportive care, including fever-reducing medications and fluids. Also, chronic bronchitis can be cured in a similar manner, and a smoking cessation approach or antibiotics may also be adopted at times. However, antibiotics are generally recommended when the patient suffers sputum production or shortness of breath or some other major symptom of the condition and a bacterial, as opposed to a viral, infection is indicated. On the other hand, antibiotics are the only treatment for patients of whooping cough. Then again, in cases of elderly patients, hospitalization may be required along with intravenous fluids or some other kind of supportive care.

Comparison Chart

Bronchitis Whooping Cough
Different viruses  or bacteria may be responsible for bronchitis. Bordetella pertussis bacterium causes whooping cough.
It is not vaccine preventable. It is preventable by vaccine.
Can be controlled with medicines including antibiotics. Can be treated using antibiotics.
Shorter incubation period. Longer incubation period.
Common symptoms include productive cough. Symptoms include light-headedness  and acute paroxysmal cough.


You can go through this video to learn to recognize and easily get treatment for whooping cough for yourself or a loved one.