Difference Between Bronchitis and Croup

Bronchitis and croup are both respiratory conditions that can cause coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. However, there are significant differences between these two conditions, including their causes, symptoms, and treatments.

What is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is a common respiratory disorder that occurs when the bronchial tubes become inflamed and produce excess mucus. There are two types of bronchitis: acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis. Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a viral infection and is characterized by a sudden onset of cough, chest congestion, and difficulty breathing.

The symptoms of acute bronchitis usually last for a few days to a week and can be managed with over-the-counter medications and plenty of fluids. Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, is a long-term condition that is caused by smoking, air pollution, or other irritants. It is characterized by a persistent cough that produces sputum and can last for several months. Chronic bronchitis can lead to complications such as respiratory failure and pneumonia if left untreated.

  • Symptoms − Bronchitis typically begins with a cough that eventually may produce sputum. There is also often a pain in the chest and a feeling of tightness and dyspnea is often present. The breathing passages are often very congested. In addition, the condition usually lasts for over a week and may even take up to 21 days for a person to fully recover from.

  • Diagnosis and causes − A clinician can diagnose bronchitis in a person by doing a physical exam and noting the symptoms. Listening to the chest and also doing a chest X-ray may be helpful in ruling out other possible causes of the chest problems. Most often the condition is the result of a viral infection particularly associated with influenza type A and B, and rhinovirus. There are other viruses that can lead to bronchitis, including the parainfluenza and coronavirus. Environmental factors such as smoking can result in bronchitis as can having the illness cystic fibrosis.

What is Croup?

Croup is a viral illness in small children which results in narrowing of the upper airways. The illness can be a mild illness but can swiftly become serious. The condition becomes worse at night.

When you breathe, air passes through the voice box and windpipe into the lungs. In this, a viral infection results in swelling of the lining of the larynx and trachea, which become narrowed. Due to obstruction in air passage, breathing becomes more difficult and stridor (an unpleasant noise at the time of breathing in) is heard.

Differences Bronchitis and Croup

One of the key differences between bronchitis and croup is the age at which they are most commonly diagnosed. While bronchitis can occur at any age, it is more common in adults, while croup is most common in young children.

Another significant difference between the two conditions is their symptoms. Bronchitis typically causes a persistent cough that produces mucus, chest discomfort, and difficulty breathing. In some cases, bronchitis can also cause a fever and fatigue. Croup, on the other hand, causes a barking cough, hoarseness, and difficulty breathing, especially when inhaling. Children with croup may also have a fever, runny nose, and sore throat.

The treatment for bronchitis and croup also differs. Bronchitis is typically treated with rest, plenty of fluids, and over-the-counter medications to relieve symptoms such as coughing and fever. If bronchitis is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed. Croup, on the other hand, may require more aggressive treatment, especially if the child is having difficulty breathing. Treatment for croup may include humidifiers, corticosteroids, or in severe cases, hospitalization and oxygen therapy.

The following table highlights the major differences between Bronchitis and Croup −





Bronchitis refers to inflammatory bronchial reaction affecting the smallest airways (bronchioles that carry air to the lungs) by blocking them and causing cough with mucus in children.

It typically causes coughing and bronchospasm.

Croup, also termed as laryngotracheobronchitis, refers to the inflammation of the larynx and trachea in small children, which interferes with normal breathing.

It has a characteristic barking cough and is usually caused by allergy, viral infection, or a foreign body.

Respiratory Rate

Marked increase or decrease in respiratory rate can be seen in case of sever Bronchitis.

Marked increase or decrease in respiratory rate

Tracheal Tug

Nasal Flaring

Oxygen Requirement

Oxygen saturation 90 -92% (Moderate Bronchitis)

Oxygen saturation less than 90%. Hypoxemia, may not be corrected by Oxygen (Severe Bronchitis)

Oxygen is not required in case of moderate infection

Hypoxemia is a late sign of significant upper airways destruction (chronic croup)




Dry, hacking and severe cough

Blue coloured skin

Difficulty in breathing

Rapid breathing

Sputum production



Begins with coryzal symptoms

Barking cough

Running nose

Hoarse Voice

Harsh stridor

Noisy breathing

Excessive drooling or difficulty swallowing



Measles virus


Influenza virus

Parainfluenza virus (type 3)

Respiratory syncytial virus

Human metapneumovirus



Croup is mostly seen from late fall till the early months of winter. The infection has a moderately higher frequency in boys than in girls. Croup is a condition which is caused by an infection. There are 2 types of this condition – viral and spasmodic.

Viruses causing Croup include −

Parainfluenza virus type II

Influenza virus types A and B


Coxsackievirus A and B


Herpes simplex virus

In rare cases, it is caused by −

Staphylococcus aureus


While bronchitis and croup are both respiratory conditions that can cause coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing, they have distinct differences in their causes, symptoms, and treatments.

Bronchitis is more common in adults and is typically caused by a viral infection or exposure to irritants. Croup is more common in young children and is caused by a viral infection, usually the parainfluenza virus.

The symptoms of bronchitis include a persistent cough, chest discomfort, and difficulty breathing, while croup causes a barking cough, hoarseness, and difficulty breathing, especially when inhaling.

The treatment for bronchitis involves rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medications, while treatment for croup may require more aggressive measures, such as hospitalization and oxygen therapy.

Updated on: 21-Aug-2023


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