What is the Difference Between Asthma and Pneumonia

The main difference between asthma and pneumonia is that asthma causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways, whereas pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation in air sacs(alveoli), not in bronchioles.

Asthma and pneumonia are two distinct respiratory conditions affecting the lungs. They have common symptoms, such as coughing and shortness of breath. However, they have different causes and treatments. Also, detecting pneumonia in people with asthma is difficult. 

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Asthma
– Definition, Facts, Features
2. What is Pneumonia
– Definition, Facts, Features
3. Similarities Between Asthma and Pneumonia
– Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Asthma and Pneumonia
– Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ – Asthma and Pneumonia
– Answers to frequently asked questions

Key Terms  

Asthma, Pneumonia 

Difference Between Asthma and Pneumonia - Comparison Summary

What is Asthma

Asthma is a chronic lung disease usually affecting people of all ages. Inflammation and muscle tightening around the airways, which makes it harder to breathe, cause asthma. Wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness are the symptoms of asthma. They can be mild or severe and can come and go over time. However, asthma is a serious condition, which can be managed with the correct treatment.

Differentiate Asthma and Pneumonia

Figure 1: Asthma 

More importantly, asthma has a family history. Also, allergic conditions such as eczema and rhinitis can cause asthma. Meanwhile, exposure to environmental allergens and irritants increases the risk of asthma. House dust mites, molds, chemicals, fumes, and dust can cause asthma. Children who are overweight or obese have a greater risk of asthma. Urbanization increases the prevalence of asthma. However, early life conditions such as prematurity, low birth weight, exposure to tobacco smoke, air pollution, and viral respiratory infections can cause asthma. 

Furthermore, under-treated asthma can cause sleep disturbance, tiredness during the day, and poor concentration. Severe asthma can cause death. The symptoms can get severe at night or with exercise. 

What is Pneumonia

Pneumonia is an acute respiratory infection in the lungs. The lungs contain small sacs called alveoli, generally filled with air. They are filled with fluid and pus in pneumonia. It makes breathing painful and also limits oxygen intake. However, it is the single largest infectious cause of death in children worldwide. Bacteria, viruses, and fungi are infectious agents that cause pneumonia. Streptococcus pneumoniae causes bacterial pneumonia. Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) also causes bacterial pneumonia. Respiratory syncytial virus is the viral cause of pneumonia. HIV in infants and Pneumocystis jiroveci are other viral causes of pneumonia in infants.

Asthma vs Pneumonia

Figure 2: Pneumonia 

Moreover, viruses and bacteria commonly live in the throat and nose of children. They can also spread via air-borne droplets through coughing and sneezing. Viral pneumonia causes more symptoms than bacterial pneumonia. Children with compromised immune systems are at higher risk of developing pneumonia. Pre-existing diseases such as HIV infection and measles increase the risk of pneumonia in infants. 

Similarities Between Asthma and Pneumonia

  • Asthma and pneumonia are two lung diseases that cause inflammation in the lungs.
  • Their similar symptoms include coughing and shortness of breath.
  • Both diseases can occur in children.   

Difference Between Asthma and Pneumonia


Asthma refers to a chronic lung disease affecting people of all ages. In contrast, pneumonia refers to an infection that inflames your lungs’ air sacs (alveoli).

Type of Disease

Asthma is an inflammation, while pneumonia is an infection.

Type of Inflammation

Asthma causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways, while pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation in air sacs, but not in bronchioles.

Disease Conditions

Inflammation and muscle tightening are the disease conditions in asthma while filling air sacs with fluid or pus is the disease condition in pneumonia. 


Asthma can occur due to allergies, while pneumonia, occurring due to allergies, is infrequent.

FAQ: Asthma and Pneumonia

How do you tell if it’s asthma or pneumonia?

Fever, coughing, muscle aches, fatigue, chills, and shortness of breath are common symptoms of asthma and pneumonia. However, the pneumonia cough is more productive, often with yellow and green mucus. Besides, different breathing sounds, such as rales and rhonchi, occur with asthma.  

Can pneumonia turn into asthma?

Asthma can result from a severe case of pneumonia due to the inflammation accumulated in the lungs and airways.  

What is more serious, asthma or pneumonia?

Asthma and pneumonia are two pulmonary diseases affecting the lungs. Asthma is a long-term pulmonary disease, while pneumonia is a short-term one. Pneumonia is contagious and may require antibiotics. People with asthma are susceptible to pneumonia. 


In brief, asthma and pneumonia are two lung diseases that cause lung inflammation. Both cause coughing and shortness of breath. Asthma is caused by inflammation and muscle tightening in the airways. Also, it can occur due to allergies. In comparison, pneumonia is caused by inflammation in air sacs caused by an infection. Therefore, the main difference between asthma and pneumonia is the type of inflammation.     

  1. World Health Organization. (n.d.). Asthma. World Health Organization.
  2. World Health Organization. (n.d.-b). Pneumonia in children. World Health Organization.
Image Courtesy:
  1. Asthma illustration” By NIH Image Gallery – Own Work (CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED) via Commons Wikimedia
  2. COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) Illustration” By NIH Image Gallery – Own Work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things. She has a keen interest in writing articles regarding science.

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