How To Determine The Difference Between Pneumonia vs Asthma

Coughing and breathing problems are both associated with asthma and pneumonia, but what are the differences between the conditions?


  • Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition in which the airways or breathing tubes become inflamed, swollen, constricted and produce excess mucus.
  • It is caused by triggers specific to the individual such as pollen, dust or smoke.
  • Common symptoms are shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and chest tightness.
  • An asthma cough is usually a dry non-productive cough.
  • Wheezing breath sounds are often a key sign of asthma.


  • Pneumonia, on the other hand, is a respiratory infection that is caused by a bacteria, virus, fungus or parasite.
  • Common symptoms include coughing, fever, muscle aches, fatigue, chills and shortness of breath.
  • A pneumonia cough is generally a productive cough, often with yellow or green mucus.
  • The breathing sounds are also different from asthma – Instead of wheezing, a doctor will hear rales and rhonchi with their stethoscope. Rales are a cracking, bubbling sound, often heard only on one side of the chest or when laying down in pneumonia patients. Rhonchi are rumblings in the chest that indict mucus in the airways.

If you or your child has trouble breathing or a prolonged cough, visit your doctor to be diagnosed – Asthma and pneumonia can both be serious conditions if left untreated.