Acute bronchitis differential diagnosis

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Seyedmahdi Pahlavani, M.D. [2]; Nate Michalak, B.A.


Acute bronchitis must be differentiated from other causes of cough and wheezing including: acute exacerbation of chronic bronchitis, asthma and pneumonia.

Differential Diagnosis of Acute Bronchitis

The acute bronchitis must be differentiated from other diseases that may cause cough, dyspnea and wheezing.[1]

Disease Findings
Chronic Bronchitis Presents with chronic cough, dyspnea and sputum production for more than three months for two years.[2]
Pneumonia Presents with acute fever, cough and shortness of breath, although pulmonary infiltrate on chest x-ray is an imaging finding.[3]
Asthma Presents with cough, dyspnea and wheezing and typically is a chronic condition which has started from childhood.[4]
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease May present with chronic, dry cough but the typical symptom is heart burn.[5][6]


  1. Albert RH (2010). "Diagnosis and treatment of acute bronchitis". Am Fam Physician. 82 (11): 1345–50. PMID 21121518.
  2. Celli BR, MacNee W (2004). "Standards for the diagnosis and treatment of patients with COPD: a summary of the ATS/ERS position paper". Eur. Respir. J. 23 (6): 932–46. PMID 15219010.
  3. Prina E, Ranzani OT, Torres A (2015). "Community-acquired pneumonia". Lancet. 386 (9998): 1097–108. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60733-4. PMID 26277247.
  4. Busse WW (2011). "Asthma diagnosis and treatment: filling in the information gaps". J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 128 (4): 740–50. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2011.08.014. PMID 21875745.
  5. Singh A (2009). "Asthma in older adults". CMAJ. 181 (12): 929. doi:10.1503/cmaj.109-2049. PMC 2789137. PMID 19969583.
  6. Irwin RS, Baumann MH, Bolser DC, Boulet LP, Braman SS, Brightling CE, Brown KK, Canning BJ, Chang AB, Dicpinigaitis PV, Eccles R, Glomb WB, Goldstein LB, Graham LM, Hargreave FE, Kvale PA, Lewis SZ, McCool FD, McCrory DC, Prakash UB, Pratter MR, Rosen MJ, Schulman E, Shannon JJ, Smith Hammond C, Tarlo SM (2006). "Diagnosis and management of cough executive summary: ACCP evidence-based clinical practice guidelines". Chest. 129 (1 Suppl): 1S–23S. doi:10.1378/chest.129.1_suppl.1S. PMC 3345522. PMID 16428686.